Philanthropy is entering the 21st Century.
Just as Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season for brick-and-mortar retailers and Cyber Monday launches the online shopping season, we now have #GivingTuesday (the day after Cyber Monday) as a starting point for charitable acts by individuals, groups and companies.
I know: Americans are the most generous people in the world. (Although, some are more obsessed with sharing illumination than life’s other necessities, as in the festive cries of “Nuke ‘em ‘til they glow.”) But the needs are many, and it doesn’t hurt to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to emphasize the idea of giving without expecting anything in return.
Most of us start out with good intentions; but many of our tentative good deeds stay on the back burner because of the crush of obligatory Christmas cards, holiday menu planning, shopping for the hard-to-please and the like. A new tradition of designating one specific day as a focal point for the initiation of a season of good deeds could be empowering.
Nudges are sometimes necessary. Americans give 10 percent of their total annual charitable donations on just two days — the last two days of the (tax) year. (As Tiny Tim would say, “God bless our deductions — every one.”) #GivingTuesday would provide an incentive for digging deeply a little earlier.
According to the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah, a recent Red Cross study found that four out of five Americans say that giving is an important part of their holiday tradition. You know what that means. The other one-fifth (nearly 63 million people) will doubtless find themselves the subject of a Hallmark Channel yuletide movie within the next 30 days. (“Sorry, Mr. Bradford, but we need to kill off your wife. This part calls for a sullen widower who meets a ball-of-optimism little girl.”)
I know there are some Scrooges out there who oppose the establishment of a formal day of national generosity. I think they fear a sort of “bracket creep” with holidays. They worry that before long Cyber Monday and #GivingTuesday will be followed by Wascally Wednesday, on which Americans band together to shred recipes for wabbit stew.
My own misgivings are minor; I worry about the hashmark (#) that sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t pop up in front of the holiday name. I’m afraid people will think that the newspaper proofreader just made a misprint after quaffing too much Thanksgiving eggnog, or that it’s pretentious, like The Holiday Formerly Known As Prince. At least it makes a good beginning point for the eventual designation. (“I swear, @$%&#Giving Tuesday seems to come closer to Cyber Monday every year!”)
Take a little time on #GivingTuesday to donate to food banks, wrap anonymous gifts, chop firewood or write letters of encouragement to people in substance abuse programs.
Right now #GivingTuesday is taking baby steps. And how will we know it has really caught on? When do-gooders camp out for two days near the domicile of the guy who lives in a van down by the river. Or when one socialite tells another, “I saw that paraplegic single mother with diverticulitis before you did! Now back off or I’m snatching you bald-headed, lady!”
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”