Giving, When Giving Is Hard

What I want, nearly more than anything is some justice in the world. I was never into pageants, but a Black girl can dream for world peace, right?

In my most ideal mind, I want to give so much of myself — my time, energy and resources, to people who need it. But I feel just as impactful when I share my leftover (unopened) lunch snacks with a stranger on the street who probably slept in the very spot I walked by him, hopping off the metro. We have a lot to give, to both the strangers we encounter and the people we love, even when we don’t feel like we do.

Despite our new Democratic Congress and (my and probably yours, too, godmother) Michelle Obama touring and releasing her new book, “Becoming,” 2018 has been handing out gifts left and right. Mostly without return receipts, though.

Here’s an abridged, working list of things I’d like to return: 

  • Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and every overtly and/or implicitly racist elected or appointed official
  • All of R. Kelly’s performance contracts (#MuteRKelly)
  • Non-indictments of police officers for murders and continued brutality
  • All 300+ school shootings and every unchecked gun license
  • Kids eating Tide pods
  • Instagram models claiming to be Black
  • My re-emerging insecurities and self-doubt (you knew we’d get to the existential crisis sometime)

Black women are redefining the ways our voices are heard and stories told. In that, there are plenty of reasons to be grateful, celebrate and encourage others to do the same. If you’re like me, you want to be festive with all bourgeoisie of Hillary Banks and not break the bank. If you’re trying to secure the bag or have a grad-student budget, like me, here’s a list of alternate ways to give and get peace, even when the world is more naughty than nice.

Speak your truth.
Don’t silence your truth. One holiday gathering down and plenty to go. Don’t let this be one more holiday where you let Aunt Shirley taunt you about being single or in a relationship, educated or working on your degree, at the same job or at a new one. You are not on God’s green earth to please Aunt Shirley.  Consider your audience before speaking, give your truth as best you can and hope for the best. Maybe your family will pass that along just as smoothly as they pass the good potato salad. Aunt Shirley can stay mad.

Give to your self.
With the help of social media, businesses have proven that trendy notions of #selfcare are not going out of style anytime soon, neither will they become any less profitable. That’s not at all to say more superficial “care” can’t brighten our days a little. They definitely can. Schedule that hair appointment you’ve been neglecting. Add Ms. O’s “Becoming” to your Amazon wishlist. Experiment with your hands to create art, like weaving or watercolors. Try a relaxing tea blend and sip your cares away. Most importantly, tune into your mental and physical wellness. Keep striving to be your best and most healthy self—the self that feels good, whole and energized.

Give compassion.
Start with a phone call to your friend who spent his or her first Thanksgiving without someone they’ve lost. I’ve been to more funerals this year than I remember, and someday I’ll be guilty of being the “casserole Christian”—love in a time of need but leave when things settle down. If you have lost someone close, find ways to grieve that also gives honor their memory. Reach out and keep healing.

Give your voice.
Advocacy is a great way to stay engaged. You may think of donating cash to your local nonprofit or community center, but your time is just as important. If you don’t have time, no one will hate you for investing by end-of-the-year giving either. Share your list of favorite organizations with a friend or two to spread the word.

Give intentionally.
If you know the love language of your close crew, perhaps start with handwritten notes or personal affirmations for them. The people you spend the most time with know you love them, but here’s a chance to tell them why. Reminding your loved ones of the times you’ve been most grateful for them will add a lot to that marked down stocking stuffer you got from Old Navy.

This year may seem like it aimed to take the joy out of the holidays, but by getting to the heart of what brings you life, like your family, friends and giving back to others, you can restore the spirit of the holiday season while coming back to yourself.

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