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Giving Tuesday: a chance to make a real difference for others and ourselves after Black Friday and Cyber Monday

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Giving Tuesday 2021: After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a chance to truly help others and ourselves.

Thanksgiving Thursday kicks off the weekend, a day with problematic colonial overtones that is weirdly sanctioned for filling ourselves full of food until all we can do is sleep the afternoon and evening away. Then there’s Black Friday, the largest shopping day of the year, when we go out into obscenely crowded stores that open at the crack of dawn and queue for hours to spend money on a variety of products we definitely don’t need but can’t resist since they’re 50% off. The four-day holiday is then followed by Cyber Monday, the year’s largest internet shopping day. It isn’t simply in the United States. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become worldwide phenomena.

However, over two years after the major outbreak began, many people’s financial circumstances have worsened, and many of us have been re-evaluating what is worth our time and energy. We can’t help but worry what the consumer spending numbers will look like after this weekend. Even if we still find ourselves shopping or clicking “Complete Purchase” on our computers, it seems like a good time to focus on what comes after the holiday weekend.

Giving Tuesday, the one day that is universally recognized as a day of kindness, occurs every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It began nine years ago, in the fall of 2012, when Henry Timms, a British man residing in New York, was sitting at his kitchen table contemplating the cultural phenomenon of millions of people throughout the world devoting these specific days to materialism. He wondered if people would devote a whole day to giving to others, to being generous, if given the chance. Timms claimed Tuesdays because no one else had. He coined the phrase “Giving Tuesday,” implying that the Tuesday following Thanksgiving should be dedicated to generosity.

Timms was the head of innovation at the 92nd Street Y at the time, a cultural center known for its programming in the performing, literary, and visual arts (he is currently the president and CEO of the Lincoln Center, New York’s largest performing arts center). He told his staff and coworkers about the idea, and the seed for a philanthropy day was born. The 92nd Street Y expanded on the concept and, to their credit, agreed not to trademark Giving Tuesday in order for other organizations and individuals to comprehend the concept of extreme giving and develop their own version of the day. What transpired next is an encouraging example of the other kinds of things we can devote our time, resources, and energy to.

Individuals, towns, and organizations all across the world grabbed the concept and adapted it to develop charity campaigns tailored to their specific needs. Giving Tuesday split out from the original organization in 2019 to become an independent non-profit that supports other campaigns around the world.

During the pandemic, Amref Health Africa established “Fund Her Future” as their Giving Tuesday initiative for Kenya, with the goal of supporting girls at risk of FGM [female genital mutilation] and child marriage. People in the United States contributed $2.47 billion in gifts and assistance, up 25% over the previous year. Organizers in the Philippines, who joined the movement in 2020, have two campaigns this year — “#passthebread” and “#ReadTogetherPH” — aimed at making a modest difference in the country’s serious food and literacy problems.

Thanksgiving and the days after may be unpredictable, but a worldwide day of charity is a thoughtful and powerful movement to celebrate and engage in. Especially in times of crisis, when we may be tempted to be preoccupied with our own small groups of people and possessions. We may be hesitant to offer due to a variety of concerns for our personal well-being.

We are also not taught the art of communal care in capitalist societies, nor are we guided toward a true comprehension of the concept of “enough.” However, freely giving to others, whether in the form of money, time, or skills, is also a method of expressing gratitude for what we do have.

It’s also a striking example of the kind of world we want our children to grow up in and the kind of people we want them to become.

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