December 10th is Colorado Gives Day!

Marble Snow

This year’s tagline for Colorado Gives Day is “Give Where You Live.”  Many of us want to make a difference in our community and sometimes we think about this in terms of the perceived biggest impact –like  helping out the poorest of the poor on a global scale, like with The Heifer Project.  There are many such worthwhile causes to support, but Colorado Gives Day is about supporting local charities that help the local community.  That kind of giving makes a different connection within a closer community. Giving money and time to causes we support tends to make us happier, more engaged people – that has been established by many studies.  The bigger issue is whether happier people give or giving makes people happier.  The causal relationship there hasn’t really been established by those studies, but does it really matter?  Giving is a way of showing gratitude for what we have and generosity of spirit in sharing.  Every wisdom tradition I am familiar with gives a central place to charity, to sharing what we have with those who are in need.

One meaning of charity comes from the Hebrew word tzedakah, which means justice or righteousness, based on the idea that our possessions, like our persons, are not really our own but are lent to us, entrusted to us for safekeeping.  That safekeeping could be considered like a trust, where the person in possession of those worldly goods is more like a trustee, charged with a duty of giving to those in need.  In Buddhism, giving is essential and is recognized as part of basic human goodness.  Giving to others can be a means of transcending the limitations of the self.  I like the emphasis on giving as a two-way street, that giving is only made possible when someone is able to receive a gift.  The act of giving itself requires a community of at least two persons – a giver and a receiver.

Charitable giving is a special kind of giving in this regard as it is one that is typically given without expectation of reward.  Perhaps this is the basis from which the happiness arises.  So often our expectations get in the way of our enjoyment of life and plans for happiness.  Maybe giving for its own sake is its own perfect reward in this way.  The broad definition of charity involves giving not just of money but of time and also a certain reservation of judgment about others’ situations.

Maybe giving financial support to a local charity can accomplish all of these things in ways that far away charitable or relief efforts cannot.  I am not suggesting answers here – only questions!

Last year I suggested three charities I am familiar with from my work with elder and disabled communities.  Once again, has a really helpful website to help you pick a charity to support by “giving where you live.”  Check it out here.

I donate some of my volunteer lawyer time to Metro Volunteer Lawyers, so I think they’re a great cause to support.  Click here to donate to them. I am one donation short of being a five-gallon donor at Bonfils Blood Center, but many people who want to donate are unable to, so you can support them financially here.  Finally, the Life Quality Institute is a local nonprofit that provides important educational and outreach services about palliative and end of life care that can ease a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual pain associated with the end of life.  You can find out more or donate to them here.

One nonprofit I didn’t previously know about – weecycle – is the beneficiary of a local attorney’s fundraising effort.  You can read and watch a video about Carlos Migoya’s Charitable Beard on SoloinColo here (and you can see for yourself that yes, his beard is of biblical proportions!) .  Give the search capabilities at  a try – you can donate to local dance companies, a homeless and runaway youth shelter, educational foundations, food banks, the range is wide in purpose and is statewide.

©Barbara Cashman 2013


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