Words, A Generous Gift

bathroom pic

Lisa did a good thing right before she died.  She wrote a very simple card to me telling me she loved me and that I had done all that I could for her.  She essentially said, “No guilt Danny.  No guilt.”  She told me to move forward in my life – to remarry.  Her exact words were, “You’re not good by yourself.”  Yeah.  She knew.

What a generous things for her to do.  Selfless.  Not surprising.

I have no guilt.  I have no angst about moving forward with my girlfriend, Julie.  I don’t know if I would have without the final check off, mybe so.  But it surely is nice not to question.

In a way, those who know they are going to die have an advantage.  If they choose, they can get their affairs straight.  They can share how much they love their friends and family.  They can help alleviate any feelings of guilt.  They can plan with their loved ones.

One would think that someone like me would fully be prepared to die.  I’m not scared to die, sometimes it is actually more scary to live in this world than to ponder death.  But I don’t think I’ve done a great job of planning for what could come.

Do my kids know that I absolutely adore them?  And not in a general sort of I love you way.  Do they know why I love them, individually?  Do they know what I think is most wonderful about each of them?

At some point over the past year or two, my parents wrote a letter to me just to let me know they are proud of me.  It’s framed in my bathroom (my favorite room in the house).

Do those I work with understand their importance in my life?  How they’ve stretched me and made me grow?

Am I vocal enough with Julie about my feelings for her?  Danny Tanner is not always easy to love.  I come with a lot.  I am thankful she’s in for the long haul.

Have I thoughtfully thanked all those who stood by me in my darkest times?  The ones who tossed my up on their shoulders and carried me when I couldn’t walk myself.

Oh, they’ll get their reward in heaven, but wouldn’t it be nice if I took the time now to let them know that I haven’t forgotten – that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

I hope I don’t die tomorrow.  I am not prepared.

 

Hands-on Giving

christmas-gifts

I fully buy into Christmas being about giving.

As a kid, Christmas presents were a big, big deal.  My parents went over the top with Santa followed by gifts from them.  In addition, my brother and I were the only grandchildren on both sides of the family.  They ensured that any potential gaps in our want list were fully covered.

My parents also didn’t buy us anything the other 11 months of the year.  December not only brought in the toys we desired, but it also stocked us up on socks and underwear for the year, a leisure suit for church and shoes.

In November, we looked like we’d just stepped out of the play Oliver Twist.  Our pants too short, and we had holes in our drawers.    January 1, it appeared as if Daddy Warbucks was kin.  We were looking great again!

But now, I have the ability to buy what I need, when I need it.  I’m not rich, but if my tennis shoes are worn, I pretty much have the capacity to replace them winter, spring, summer or fall.  Thus, this time of year has shifted for me.  Unlike my youthful self I am appreciative, but unmotivated by what awaits me under the tree.  A coffee cup with my kid’s art on the side is more exciting to me than a Brooks Brothers’ suit.  It’s all about maturity and perspective.

I do, however, really, really want others to appreciate what I have chosen for them.  And it saddens me to think of those who aren’t able to celebrate the holiday with the same vigor as we do.

For years I have adopted a family from the YMCA’s Angel Tree.  Our organization works to help bring Christmas to thousands of underserved kids who participate in our programs.  With my busy work schedule and the play I’m in with the girls, I became overwhelmed this year.  I was stretched in so many directions.  Therefore, I made the choice to give money to my church for those in need rather than to take a name off the tree and go on a shopping spree for a specific child.

That decision hasn’t ruined the season for me, but I’ll have to say that I regret simply giving a check.  I truly miss the excitement of picking out cool stuff for someone specific.  Each year, the girls and I would get so excited about a cool pair of jeans and a hat for our unknown three-year-old boy.  Finding the Thomas the Train playset he requested filled my cup.  With no boys in my house, I was pumped to pick out little dude tennis shoes and boy toys.

I took the easy way out this year.  I checked the ”helping others’ box” on my Christmas list with absolutely no effort on my part.  And it is just not the same.

Certainly the money I give will be helpful, maybe more so.  But there is a difference in giving to fulfill a quota and being fully invested in the process.

I give checks to several nonprofits throughout the year understanding that they must have my support to do their work and don’t bat an eye.  But at Christmas, I feel compelled to do more.  I won’t make this choice next year.

Sunday Post 89: Feel Like a Man

I sit on the Stewardship Committee at church.  I guess when you raise money as part of your job, it’s likely you’ll get tapped to try to do the same at church.  I think I’m probably more successful at this task when my livelihood is dependent upon my success.

Between Stewardship season at church and watching the Republicans and Democrats endlessly hash it out over the middle class, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about my financial situation.  I’m not sure what distinguishes middle from upper class.  If I had to classify myself, I’d say I’m probably upper middle class, although it doesn’t always feel that way.

When I graduated from college, my first job paid $18,300 per year.  I lived on that and was actually quite happy.  I did pretty much whatever I wanted and even socked away $25 per paycheck toward my retirement.  I’m not sure I was really giving much money away at that time in my life.  I was pretty much just concerned with me.  I think there are a lot of people out there like that.

My dad was a Baptist minister.  He gave ‘til it hurt and required us to do the same.  When my allowance was .50, I was expected to send a nickel of that booty to the church.  Each week I’d count out my loot, I was a saver.  I’d add in the .50 to my net worth and then subtract the nickel that was being forcibly extracted from my hand.

Although I didn’t like to see my piggy bank balance decline, I did sort of like filling out the envelope and tossing it into the offering plate.  I was only a boy, but giving made me feel like a man.

And so today I ponder.  I make exponentially more than I did when I was 5 and considerably more than when I was 22.  Does my current giving make me feel like a man or like a heel?  Do I feel obligated to write that monthly check, or am I giving with a cheerful heart?    

A friend of mine recently said that she felt like giving ought to hurt a little.  If it’s too easy to make your gift, perhaps you’re not doing enough.  If you don’t have to think about your charitable giving as a line item in your budget, maybe you’re thinking a bit too much about yourself.  Most of us wouldn’t sign a mortgage without considering how it fits into our monthly income.  I think philanthropic giving should be the same.

Learning to give is a journey, and I’ve got a long way to go.  There are a lot of people out there who need my help.  It wouldn’t hurt me one bit to cut out a night or two of eating out each month or take one less trip to Joseph Banks never-ending buy one get two free sales. 

Maybe if I did, I’d be more of a man.

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