Opinion: Gift of giving

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Just as sure as the calendar turns and the leaves pile under the trees, our collective thinking lurches forward to the coming season. Hopes fade for family picnics turning instead towards a crackling fire in the hearth. Retail stores bring forth holiday merchandise with Thanksgiving granted a passing glance before the looming shopping season. In many homes, Halloween decorations are replaced by the flickering lights of Christmas even as others anticipate the Festival of Lights. 

The resolute among us hold out, with tradition dictating proper attention to each celebration. First, we feast on turkey and stuffing. Then, we plan the roast beef and cranberries. No matter how we mark the season, for most of us it will include giving. We give to those beloved in our homes. We give to our friends and neighbors. We give to our colleagues, employees and to those who provide services to us throughout the year. And often, they share generously with us. Still more, we give to those in need. We give to the many institutions and organizations that serve. It is important to give. It feels good, and it matters. Do it. 

Yet, for many, the time of generosity is challenged by anxiety about how to sort it all out. Even if the desire to give is strong, can we give too much? Which gift is too extravagant? Which agency is most equipped to serve those in need? We are inundated with worthy requests. In 2017, nonprofits sent 166 individual requests to our family from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve – an additional 32 solicitations arrived via the U.S. Postal Service. Some were industrious, sending as many as 11 pleas in the 40-day period. Because we answered the call of many, the mailbox will see scores more this year. Can there be too much? 

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