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by Positive Adventures Wed Nov 7 2018

Although this article will begin with a proper holiday rant… just stick with us. We’ll come around to the good stuff.

It seems like every year, we’re pushing more and more “Days”. National Ice Cream Day. Take Your Dog to the Park Day. January 18th is Winnie the Pooh Day. What even is that? And as we continue to saturate the calendar with more and more celebrations and a never-ending list of hashtags and Snapchat filters, the biggest holidays have to push even harder to promote their commercial agenda spread the season’s cheer.

Did you know stores have been putting up Christmas displays since August? AUGUST. Christmas went from a religious holiday, to a holiday about family, to a lineup of gifts and decorations and Pinterest boards packed with artisanal popcorn tinsel, hand-stamped wrapping parchment, and hand-carved Game of Thrones nativities featuring Tyrion Lannister as the baby Jesus. It can be… overwhelming.

Thanksgiving can be even more exhausting. For hundreds of years, people have been celebrating a good harvest. Literally saying “we’re so happy that the crops worked out and we don’t have to starve.” Everyone has had their own time and way, but the point was to be thankful for what we have. Massachusetts and Virginia are still bickering about who had the first Thanksgiving, by the way. Thanksgiving slowly morphed from a day of thanks, to a day of feasting, to an entire day of watching football and crushing copious amounts of food.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re all about watching football, drinking our way through several bottles of Martinelli’s, and slowly drifting into a tryptophan coma. But where’s the gratitude? Does reflection on this day result in any real change?

For many American families, it’s the gateway to Christmas. Sure, stores have been pushing candy canes and snow globes since before summer camp let out, but turkey day is the main event. Black Friday has been around since the 50s, when it marked the official start of the Christmas shopping season (because Christmas isn’t Christmas if you aren’t buying more, amiright?), but it’s gotten increasingly out of hand. Stores that used to open early started opening at midnight. Then even earlier. You wonder why more kids don’t come home for the holidays? Because they’re stuck at their retail jobs trying to explain to angry shoppers that WE ARE SOLD OUT OF POMSIES. Or whatever this year’s hot toy will be.

Have you ever looked up Black Friday on Wikipedia? There’s an entire section called “violence and chaos”. Over stuff. People start fights and have even trampled others, all to get a good deal on all the stuff they buy. Companies and news outlets sensationalize the importance of these deals and convince everyone that there’s just not enough stuff to go around. If you don’t get there early, Christmas may never come.

And so, an entire generation of retail workers skip out on the free food and football, people camp on sidewalks and release their most base instincts, and people die (seriously. Check out blackfridaydeathcount.com).

There are hundreds of blogs and videos and listicles telling people what the hottest toys for Christmas are going to be. Like, it doesn’t even matter what your loved ones may need or want. Good Housekeeping and The New York Post will tell you what to buy.

And here’s the kicker: people will do just enough good to feel good about themselves.

For example, in addition to Black Friday, we have Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is for intellectuals who are smart enough to stay at home and order everything from the couch, but don’t realize that they’re still getting suckered into buying even more stuff they don’t need. Finally, we have “Giving Tuesday”.

Giving Tuesday is a day, after all the madness has subsided and the shame starts to set in, when we donate our time, money, and services. According to givingtuesday.org, it “kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.” Sounds nice, right?

But even the loveliest of days like Giving Tuesday can quickly become a platform for self-promotion…  complete with hashtags and tax-deductions. Here’s a question: If you donate on Giving Tuesday, but don’t post about it, does it count?

I’ll explain.

As the holiday season has become more and more commercialized, we’ve needed to step up our personal branding for “what’s really important.” We spend the weekend focused on our own day-to-day lives, and on Tuesday we donate to a cause or volunteer. And you make sure to get that insta post up. #givingtuesday #reasonfortheseason #lookwhatagoodpersoniam.

The truth is that almost everything we do is, on some level, selfish. We don’t buy gifts without an expectation of gratitude. Doing good things doesn’t make us a good person and posting them on social media doesn’t really scream “humble service.” We like the way charity makes us feel, and it makes us feel way better when other people validate it.

We’re going to suggest something. Here’s the challenge:  Just once, do something good for others (volunteer, clean up the park, donate food or clothes, or anything you want) and don’t tell anyone. Not a soul. Just help someone else because you have it pretty good and maybe they don’t.

We’re not saying “never post on social media” or “keep to yourself all of the awesome things you do”. Just…. try the challenge. And see how it feels. Social media posts about fundraising, donating your birthday to a cause, highlighting grassroots nonprofits that you care about etc. can drive other people to give more. Social media can be a huge tool in getting the word out! Just don’t let it be your main motivator. Keep a piece of good just for yourself.

Plus, giving to others reminds us how good we have it! Some of us have more than others, it’s true, but if you’re reading this, you have internet. Nearly half the world doesn’t. You probably aren’t starving. Close to 800 million people are. Do you have a reasonable place to live? Over a billion people don’t.

WE CAN DO BETTER.

Broken Christmas tree ornament with a red background

Giving on a Larger Scale – Corporate Social Responsibility

Here’s our second challenge. Companies often run charity programs this time of year. But giving should be a result of gratitude. The good news is, there’s synergy there. The more you practice gratitude, the more compelled you’ll be to give. The more you give, the more gratitude you’ll cultivate. If you want to do something as a company, here are some tips:

  1. Talk to your team. Find out what they’re passionate about. Homelessness? Orphans and children in foster care? Veterans? Dogs? Create a program tailored to your group.

  2. Utilize your strengths. Are you a tech company? Maybe you can use that to help people who need computers, or to help equip a school with better technology. Whatever it is you do best, try to share that with others. You’ll be giving something that few can give.

  3. Don’t make it a competition. Different people give differently. A single 28-year-old probably has more time for volunteering than a working mother of 4. Your Senior Sales Director can probably shell out more dough than your interns. So don’t make it about who gave what. Just offer opportunities for everyone to get involved.

  4. Encourage and empower your team to give on their own. Offer some PTO for those who want to volunteer in their own way.

The holiday season is meant to be a time of reflection and gratitude. Giving back should be the response. Take time to look around. Your life is pretty good. How can we not share with those who are truly struggling? How can we not be in awe of all that we have? When we lack gratitude, we lose ourselves. When we practice gratitude, we better ourselves.

So enjoy the football, smash the vino, and crush the food. Buy that new stereo for the family. Sign up for the company food drive, and hashtag away. But then be quiet. Be still. Consider your good fortune and how you may be able to change someone else’s life for the better. Then do something about it.

Is your company looking to give back in a bigger way? Click here for our CSR Expert’s Guide on how to get started.

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