And then I broke my new year’s resolution.

I rarely post without editing, but this one’s going live without a second look. Buckle up.

My 2013 new year’s resolution was to always choose generosity. And by always, I mean every freaking time a group or cause asked for a donation, I was the eager beaver saying yes.

I’ve said yes a lot over the past 11 months, and while unnatural at first, now it feels really good. I like who it’s made me become.

It makes someone’s day to hear a positive response after dozens of negative ones. Peoples eyes light up when you agree to support a cause they’re passionate about. Try it and you’ll thank me; pretty much makes you a modern-day Robin Hood.

Homeless pets? OF COURSE I’d like to help save them. Candy bars for the troops? COUNT ME IN. Donations for juvenile diabetes? MY PLEASURE.

I said yes every single time I was asked to help out with a charitable cause (to the best of my memory), regardless of whether it was a convenient time, something I felt closely aligned to or how I was approached. I’ve donated by text message, through Facebook and by PayPal. I’ve purchased things from kids outside grocery stores and given whatever I could spare from my wallet (or abyss of a backseat) to homeless folks and lackluster counter-top collection jars.

Sometimes I said yes even when I really didn’t want to (my credit card bill astounds me sometimes), or when it seemed excessive (come on, I donated to three other people this week). I said yes to all kinds of projects, even when I wondered where my money was actually going, when there were no 501(c)3 tax receipts and when I sensed that my money was a mere drop in the bucket for an agency that already had plenty of support.

Let me tell you, those dollar add-ons that pop up when you’re checking out at a retail cash register are pure genius. Round of applause to whoever designed that system because it is now one of my favorite things. Actually, I think that in addition to soliciting donations, these systems could be used for public interest surveys (What color are your socks today? Who is your celebrity write-in candidate for President?).

Anyway, here we are near the end of the year, and I’m feeling pretty good about my moral fiber. Is my chest puffed out? Perhaps a smidge.

In total I’ve probably given a few hundred bucks and a dumpster’s worth of old clothes and household items away and to be honest, I haven’t felt the difference in my bank account at all. It’s not because I’m wealthy…if I stopped to tally it all and saw what I might’ve done with the money (car payment, plane ticket, etc), I might feel remorseful for a minute or two. But I’m not going to do that and that’s not the point, anyway. If you wait until you’re ‘ready’ to donate, you’ll never be ready. It ties back to what I wrote a year ago:

I’m not spending a ton of money doing this. It’s $1 to $20 at a time, which is (sadly – but honestly) the amount I spend on trivial things everyday. There’s no way to determine if any of the people I’m supporting truly need the money. But who’s to say? My determination is, if they have made the decision to ask me for it, then they need it. More than I do. I love the idea that even on a very, very small scale, I’m bringing some happiness to different people this way. Being the change. Sharing positivity, even if it’s fleeting.

So now what? Well, I broke this resolution last Saturday, right after Thanksgiving of all times, and here’s what went down. An adorable cub scout outside of Lowes asked me to purchase something form his bake sale. I stopped. Froze, really, and walked away mumbling. I snubbed a cute little uniformed kiddo because I am so, so saddened by the policies of BSA. It took until this year – 2013 – for them to temporarily repeal a ban on members based on sexual orientation. And a ban remains – in 2013, mind you – on leaders who are homosexual. I can’t breathe normally when I think about it.

I readily admit I could have and should have handled this situation differently. I threw away an opportunity to turn my negative feelings into a positive moment of dialogue with volunteers on why I think all people deserve equal rights to participate in any outdoorsy woodsman-like activities they choose. I didn’t do that though, I just huffed and walked away. That sucks, but it’s also pushed me to think a lot about whether I’m contradicting my own pledge to generosity by picking and choosing like this. I’m willing to bet there are unethical things and wrongdoing amid the hierarchy of almost every charity…but the difference is that BSA publicly shares their policy of discrimination, and it impacts children. This breaks my heart.

All children, scratch that, all humans deserve safe ways to grow and socialize and learn regardless of sexual orientation, race, age or income class. BSA is an independent organization that I know has done wonderful things for millions of people. But today – right now – it’s making some kids feel less ok about themselves and possibly their parents, teachers or relatives. They’re getting a subtle message that there’s something dangerous or undesirable about these people, and that’s not ok.

I won’t attempt to pretend I know all the history, politics or facts surrounding this situation, but I felt compelled to write this. My point was simply that A) Generosity can be hard, especially when it conflicts your own morals, and B) Kindness and acceptance should always guide us, not fear or hate.


“People generally see themselves as kind, friendly and honest.”

If you have a few minutes, check out this article.

It digs into research on peculiar aspects of human behavior. Namely, that most of us believe ourselves to be generous, but when presented with opportunities to give back, we don’t always embrace them.

“Most people, in fact, think of themselves as generous. In self-assessment studies, people generally see themselves as kind, friendly and honest, too. We imagine that these traits are a set of enduring attributes that sum up who we really are. But in truth, we’re more like chameleons who instinctively and unintentionally change how we behave based on our surroundings.”

I’d be lying if I said generosity always comes naturally. I struggle with it sometimes. Because…money is tight, or I’m tired, or I’d simply rather not give of myself when I already feel like I’m holding on by a thread. What I’m learning though, is that it always feels good to give, even in the smallest doses, even when it’s inconvenient. The goodness goosebumps are worth more than the dollars or time you relinquished.

So there’s that. And then this morning, I watched this video. And I cried…oh, I cried. I was drenched in tears, but also in hopefulness, and reminded of the difference every person can make if we give a little more.

I mean, it’s hard not to feel capable of conquering the world when you learn what people have overcome with the help of others. I see news stories every week that make me think, “Shit. I could never go on if that happened to me. I’d quit…I’d die.”

But these people, these stories, they don’t quit and they don’t die. They carry on, often through the selfless work and donations of others. I don’t know if it’s strength or grace or blind faith, but it’s remarkable the way the human spirit unites us to move past our darkest days. But what if the momentum of goodness and generosity slowed, what would happen?

“In one study, social psychologists placed paper fliers on 139 cars in a large hospital parking lot and watched to see what the car owners would do with them. When drivers emerged from the hospital to find a parking lot littered with scattered fliers, candy wrappers and coffee cups (arranged by the researchers, of course), nearly half of them removed the fliers from their cars and left them on the ground. In contrast, when the researchers swept the parking lot clean before the drivers returned, only 1 in 10 dropped the flier. Unwittingly, the drivers adopted the behavior that seemed most appropriate given their understanding of the area’s prevailing norms.”

This was exactly the reminder I needed that I have to give more, and…I have to talk about it more, educate the “prevailing norms” of others.

Here’s the thing though, I don’t think it’s generosity we lack: I think more often it’s motivation. Which is nuts. When I stopped weeping over my Macbook from this morning’s emotional video, I found it surprisingly easy to give without spending a lot of money. (Or leaving my couch.) (Or showering.)

I gave money to my friend’s fundraising page for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation. She’s running 26 miles, I can forgo a trip to Target.

I called Nordstrom and got them to donate a pair of dress pants and alterations to Leroy, the gentleman featured in the video. It took four minutes.

I found an extra birthday card and addressed it to Candace. That took 48 cents and about two minutes.

I know I’m preachy about this, but if I can proselytize others about anything, let it be giving.