People Don’t Just Get Hungry At Christmas

It’s true, I think, that people tend to be more generous during the holiday season.

I can attest to this personally.  I recently donated to a family-adoption program at my workplace; I always stop by the Salvation Army kettles when I see them; my husband and I participated in a local Thanksgiving meal event for the local food pantry.  All of these are things I wouldn’t have done otherwise, primarily because they’re opportunities we’d never have noticed or thought about otherwise.

And that’s good.  It’s part of what is special about Christmas: that sense of generosity, of helping each other, of service.  Moreover, it’s true that some people absolutely rely on the kindness of others to be able to have a Christmas or Thanksgiving meal, to wrap gifts for their children, to have a warm and heated home.

But man, January is rough on charities when it comes.

A recent GuideStar survey reported that 50.5% of the organizations they surveyed received the majority of their contributions from October to December.  And many charities report noticeable drops in donation after the holiday season is over.  The generosity that overflows the coffers at Christmas often dries up in January…and February…and on into March…

I imagine there are a couple of reasons for this.  The first is that food drives and charitable initiatives are often more visible or publicized during the holidays, and more people participate as a result.  The second is that the winter season sometimes simply makes it more difficult, due to the cold, for people to get out and do.

And the third?  I think after the holidays some people simply get tired of giving.

If you’re a believer, you might be familiar with the burnout.  There are so many opportunities to give during the holiday season, and many believers have a habit of participating in every single charitable initiative.  Shoebox?  Sure.  Angel Tree?  Yes.  Kettles?  Of course.  Food pantry?  Well, you can’t forget that.  Coat drive?  Right, yeah…  Mittens?  Okay.  Church Christmas fund?  That too…

At the end of the holiday season, many Christians are overwhelmed by the blitz of giving.  The problem is that need doesn’t just occur during the holiday season; it’s year round, and hunger doesn’t fade when the Christmas lights do.  In light of that, some suggestions:

  1. Plan your Christmas giving.  If you don’t have an idea of what you want to give or to where, it’s easy to just give to everything, all the time, and leave yourself in financial and spiritual burnout by January.  Choose some causes that you care about and donate to those, leaving yourself enough to donate after the New Year, too.
  2. Give over a series of months.  The temptation at the holidays is to give a one-time gift to a particular charity or organization.  But why not make a decision to give a yearlong gift at that time, or to offer a certain amount each month?  Or to spread your giving out over a series of months?  I know a believer who used to give $150 to his church’s ministry to the poor, but who ended up breaking that down into $50-a-month increments over December, January, and February because the ministry often struggled after the holiday season was over.
  3. Give a little in the winter or the spring.  Maybe, if you’re fortunate enough to have extra to offer once the holidays are over, divert the money to where it might be needed.  Or, if you feel God is directing you periodically to give your tithe money elsewhere, feel free to do that as well.
  4. Offer some time after the New Year.  If you gave yourself out financially at Christmas, why not make a promise to give yourself spiritually after the holidays pass?  If you can’t give money, lend time to a literacy program, a soup kitchen, or a local food pantry.  Anything will do – just find a way to give back at the time charities and the needy require it most.

There is always a time and a place to give, but if we’re not going to get overwhelmed we have to consider and plan our giving carefully, especially in this season’s generosity blitz!  We absolutely must give what we can during the holidays, but we must remember giving extends far beyond them.

Note: my blog will be on hiatus during the coming week and a half.  I may queue a post or two to run during that time, but I’ll be back on my regular schedule come mid-December. 

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