Giving Up, Up and Away!

photo courtesy of NASA and Wikipedia

I am a believer in tangible gifts, gifts that make a difference in our lives.  No, I am not talking about the iPad.  This time of year I often give to one or two charities.  But how to decide?

My friend Jennifer T. and I once had a conversation when I was solicited her for a charity I was working with.  She declined to give, and explained to me that she and her partner had decided that they would think together and decide on one or two charities that they felt they wanted to get solidly behind.  They took time to think about what was important to them in this world, and get behind it solidly.  They researched several.  I don’t remember which ones they decided on, but I do remember being impressed with the thoughtfulness of this.  Myself, I often have reacted based on guilt and immediacy, which means that often the charities with the best marketing get my attention.  If you have a similar difficulty, try checking out Charity Navigator. It has the demographics served, financial information which breaks down where your money goes, world reach, etc.

Or if you want to donate to one of the following, please do.  I have picked a few that I have supported throughout the past few years.  These are based on the people I work with, family and friends, so that when I am helping these charities I can picture people whose lives I may be changing for the better:

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has helped millions of animals and did amazing work during Hurricane Katrina for the companion animals left behind in the wake of the storm.  They also have a great hotline to call if your labrador retriever eats something he’s not supposed to and you are freaking out about poison.  Yes, that is a personal experience.

Continuing with the dog theme, I can tell you from personal experience that working with my dog Boo in therapeutic settings over the years has enabled me to reach patients in a way I never could alone.  I am thinking in specific of an alternative school setting I used to work in, where she joined me monthly.  One adolescent with Prader Willi syndrome was really struggling with compulsive eating and lack of exercise.  He was able to decrease his impulsivity after we set up a plan where he was rewarded by being able to take Boo on a walk with me.  That’s right, exercise as a reward?!?  If that doesn’t speak to the power of animal-assisted therapy, I don’t know what does.  Although Boo never had the opportunity to receive formal training and certification, a donation to the Delta Society will help provide for the care and training of other therapy dogs and make a huge difference in the lives of the patients they help in years to come.

Have someone you feel ambivalent about this year?  Give them a goat.  The Heifer Organization is an organization that takes your donations and makes donations of sustainable livestock to communities in developing countries all over the world. Maybe grandma would like socks again this year, but maybe she’d get a kick out of seeing the picture of a flock of geese she donated to a village this year.

If you want to support transgender rights and protections, please consider giving to my local friends at Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.  Besides being a one-stop source for all sorts of trans resources, they are really pivotal in my state for advocating for legistative changes, including their advocacy on behalf of trans youth in the development of our states cyberbullying regulations.  Best part is you can set up a recurring payment through PayPal, if you are well-intentioned but absent-minded like me.

Whether you are looking for more information, considering being a plasma donor, or wanting to give money, a donation to the International Multiple Myeloma Foundation will make a difference to patients and families all over the world dealing with this specific form of cancer.  You’ll also be helping a friend of mine’s family as they work on kicking this condition’s a** and I’d appreciate the support with that particular a**-kicking.

Or if you are wanting to deal with cancer in a more general way, go for it.  A gift to the American Cancer Society will do just that.  I know from the hard work my friend Johanna R. has been doing their that it is a global force as well, with her traveling to all over the world to organize the planet to combat cancer.

So there you go, try to get behind one or two of these (or one of your own) singlemindedly, I recommend them.  That’s it from me till after Christmas, I hope if you celebrate the holiday you enjoy it!  ML


  1. Susan Meindl says

    I thoroughly approve of the approach that your friends took to their charitable giving, and I approve as well of your enthusiastic promotion of a charity that you feel is worthy. More power to you and to your thoughtful friends.

    But let me share with you a charitable giving strategy that I thoroughly dislike.. and that is the giving of charitable gifts in the name of a friend or relative to a charity that the donor cares about but the supposed recipient has never shown any interest in. This is a strategy that is becoming more popular among the ecologically minded and the animal friendly.
    It is psychologically problematic because of the passive aggressive quality of the gesture. It recognizes, for example that this is an occasion on which a gift should appropriately be given, and yet the giver does not wish to either take the trouble to seek out something that would be genuinely pleasing or for one reason or another feels that the recipient really should not receive a concrete gift….even if the occasion requires it (ie: they already have “too much”, they would not use it wisely etc etc.). It also shows a certain lack of respect for the recipients’s own charitable preferences or their ability to judge the worthiness of a charity because a simple phone call or e-mail could easily determine what charity the recipient supports.
    In short, this gift giving strategy is essentially self-serving and risks being self-aggrandizing (self-inflating) on the part of the giver especially since one tends to choose charities with which one identifies.
    Very often the care of animals, vulnerable members of society, or even by extension, nature, is part of someone’s necessary work of self-repair. This psychological self-referentiality seems to me to be the reason that certain people are passionate or radical, rather than simply “concerned”…why they crusade rather than just treat their pets and environment that they inhabit with respect, affection and care.

    It is rare in my experience, for example, to find a client who is passionately involved in the succour of maltreated animals who has not been psychologically or physically abused themselves and who does not, as a result, identify strongly with “the underdog”.

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