June 15, 2020


Small Charitable Practices To Cultivate Today

By: Peter Lipsett

Someone, somewhere gave me a gift I didn’t want: the coronavirus.

I’m almost two weeks into dealing with it, and I’m ready for it to shoo away. It’s a lingering, smoldering pest.

It has, however, brought other, more pleasant gifts along with it. Sometimes it takes being knocked down to be reminded of all the hands around ready to pick you up.

In the midst of recovery, I found three boxes piled outside my front door. One was a delivery of wine (self care, naturally). The other two were from friends – a delivery of soup and cookies and another box filled with distractions for our kids.

My past articles here generally focus on the ways you can start building up your charitable practice, discussing ways to think about charities to support and how to set aside money toward giving bigger gifts.

Looking around at my front porch and the broader community, I’m reminded that charity starts much smaller than that, often in ways that get overlooked. Small gestures go a long way to helping others and making the world better.

That’s what we are trying to do with charitable giving in the first place, isn’t it?

Thinking of yourself as a charitable giver doesn’t start when you can stash $100 a month away in a donor-advised fund, then. It starts today, in small ways that show you care.

Give a Minute
If you are someone who wants to think of yourself as a charitable person, then you are already halfway there. All you need to do is take some small action to get going. 

Is there a person in your broader world who is sick or lonely? Maybe someone beyond the immediate connections you’d normally reach out to? Send that person a text or an email. You don’t have to offer to fix them a five course meal – just let them know you’re thinking of them and hope they get better soon.

You can give your time in other ways, too. If you are going to the grocery store anyway, see if your older neighbor needs one or two things. Send a postcard to someone you’re thinking of. Offer to read a book over Zoom to your niece or nephew to give their parents a break.

My point here isn’t to suggest you should be doing any of these things. These are simply nice, easy things you may already want to do or be doing that help others – and that means you are a charitable giver.

Give a Buck
When we think of charitable giving, we often go straight to the dollars. Let’s face it – dollars matter. Right now, a small amount goes a long way for those in need.

Giving charitably doesn’t have to mean giving to a charity. There is no tax receipt coming to you for a kind gift to a GoFundMe campaign, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that your gift is indeed a gift. Whether you are giving to feed frontline healthcare workers or to support laid off restaurant workers, you are being generous.

Same idea applies for those gifts that showed up on my porch. The beauty of this modern age is you can spend a few dollars and have happiness delivered straight to someone’s doorstep. Who doesn’t like a small box with a surprise?

Give Deliberately
Even if you aren’t throwing big bucks around to charities, you still likely are or want to be charitable. Small kindnesses fit the bill. You’re likely doing some anyway here and there. 

The next step is to be deliberate about it. Carve out time – even just five minutes a week – to write a note or reach out to someone. Commit to spending $5 a week on someone else to bring a smile to their face. 

In other words, build a habit. That small habit will build on its own and you’ll find other ways to expand that kindness. Before you know it, you’ll be a charitable giver in every respect.

That’s a gift worth sharing.