Giving can be life-changing

Dec 02, 2019

by Juanita T. James, President & CEO
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation
As published on 12/1 in Hearst Connecticut Media Group’s daily newspapers

Have you started receiving solicitations about Giving Tuesday, yet? I have. And when I read them, my first thought is to salute the leaders of the 92nd Street Y, who had the vision to create Giving Tuesday in 2012, as a way uplift the power of generosity of individuals to create a better society. And how brilliant to time this day of global giving so close to Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a day when I have a chance to unwind from my frenetic schedule and enjoy my family and friends. It’s also a day for me to reflect about how grateful I am for all the blessings I have been given — a loving family, purposeful work, good health, and an abundant network of family, friends, and colleagues from all walks of life across the globe.

Thanksgiving is also a time that I reflect on how many people are struggling in our world. After all, we are bombarded 24/7 by news of suffering, violence, abuse, hunger, hardship, and cruelty. I can easily be overwhelmed by the magnitude of need and a feeling of hopelessness to solve the problem.

Instead, I choose to be inspired by people and organizations that are doing what they can to help a mother feed her starving child, or a family find shelter or provide them with the necessary medical treatment they need but can’t afford, or give a talented, but poor young adult a chance for a better future by providing access to higher education or training through scholarships.

The requests I’ve received are coming from a wide variety of nonprofit organizations locally, nationally and internationally. So how do you decide how to give, what to give and who or what to give to? Or do you put those appeals in a big pile and hope that you get to it eventually when you have free moment this holiday season.

Each of us will have a different approach. I choose to lead with my heart to try to make a difference in someone’s life. Whether my giving will provide someone with an opportunity to change their life trajectory, or help someone overcome a sudden crisis, as long as it is something meaningful to them, it matters. Taking action matters!

At this year’s annual luncheon for our Fund for Women & Girls (FWG), we heard a story about a husband and wife, Rich and Rebecca, who, together, decided to change the future of their family by educating themselves as a means to getting ahead. They worked night and day at their current jobs, while taking classes and caring for their combined family of six children. I am delighted to tell you that their struggle was successful. Through the financial support of the Fund and the support services they received from FWG and HCC, they graduated from Housatonic Community College in June. Rebecca is planning to enroll in a four-year college in the fall to earn a bachelor’s degree. In the meantime, she is working as a caregiver for seniors and has an event planning business. Rich is working full-time at a precision machine company.

Their success is a result of the community’s generosity. And the community of givers and Giving Day sponsors is growing. Right here in Fairfield County we sponsor a local Giving Day to support our local nonprofits helping our neighbors. Fairfield County Giving Day 2020 will be held Feb. 27, so you will be hearing from your favorite nonprofits soon.

And we also have Hearst Connecticut Media’s Giving Fund, where the stories of those in need here at home are published daily in the newspapers and online. For many, it’s hard to admit you need help, so when you read about a neighbor not being able to pay their rent because they were in the hospital; or a family doesn’t have money for food, or needs help to pay for a family member’s funeral, the Giving Fund is there to help.

Think about taking action this Giving Tuesday. And not just this Tuesday. Giving is contagious and rewarding. And if you can’t afford to give financially, give of yourself. Sometimes time and attention are the greatest gift of all. Do something that makes you smile and warms your heart.

Be as generous as you can, but know that any amount is greatly appreciated. If everyone who can gives even a little bit, when we gather all those little bits together, it can be life-changing.

Together, each and every one of us needs to take steps toward building futures for each other and caring about our friends and neighbors. Take some time to think about what you can give and where you can, to quote Maya Angelou, “Be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

I wish you a holiday season filled with the joy of giving.

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