Thursday, December 8, 2011

365 Days of Christmas

T’is the season of giving, and giving back.

But in the rush to decorate, shop, wrap and address stacks of holiday cards, I can’t help but wonder… Why does the desire to give drive us 25 days a year, and not 365?

Several things motivate charitable giving.  For many, it is an urge to please others.  For some, it’s self-fulfillment.  And for a select few, it truly is the selfless desire to give back for the greater good.

Motivation aside, I have given of myself in many ways throughout the years.  Whether spending the summer as a hospital candy striper during high school or visiting orphanages in third world countries as an adult, the end result contains a common thread.  Each time, the gift that I receive is even greater than that which I have given.

Here’s a recent example.  This past weekend, I attended a Step Up Women’s Network event where professional females spent time mentoring high school freshman girls.  Each woman was paired with a teenager having career aspirations similar to her own.  I took an immediate liking to my mentee, fifteen year old Vanessa.
Photo: Amy Tierney/f8f11 Images
As a television producer, I am usually the one with tough questions, but it was Vanessa who took the reigns.  Upon her asking whom I most admire, I fumbled for an honest yet inspiring answer relatable for a teen.  She smiled gently as I responded, then paused and looked away as I lobbed the question back to her.  She replied softly not with Selena Gomez or the cast of Twilight, but simply “I am inspired by the homeless, because they have nothing, but keep on surviving”.  My heart skipped a beat, but we quickly moved on.

Vanessa was most excited to ask if I knew the cast of the Jersey Shore, and her Christmas came early when I filled her in on some of my time with them.  But it wasn’t the excitement about Pauly D or JWoww that put the greatest light in her eyes, nor in mine.

Vanessa maintains an energy of freedom, innocence, creativity and passion for learning unlike anything I have experienced in some time.  This, I learned, is what gives her light.  Her remark about the homeless was what gave me mine.  It was a gift… one I hope to carry with me for some time.

There are 16 shopping days left until Christmas, 11 until Chanukah.  I am sure that many of you will give to greater good in some way during that time.  My hope, though, is that more of you will remember to do so in the other 340-ish days of the year.

People say it is better to give than to receive… but sometimes, it isn’t.