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Tuesday, December 1, is Giving Tuesday, when people all around the world give to others. Everybody can give something—time, inspiration, encouragement, money, service—so would you like to join in?
Held each year on the first Tuesday after the American Thanksgiving holiday, Giving Tuesday has expanded into a global celebration of unity and connectedness that showcases selfless service to humanity in thousands of different ways.
It all started in 2012, when New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation decided to do something humanitarian and charitable as a response to the rampant materialism, consumerism, and commercialization of the traditional holiday season.
The day’s popularity began to spread globally when tech companies like Mashable, Skype, and Cisco got involved as co-sponsors. The first Giving Tuesday raised approximately $10 million for charities and NGOs in 2012. Since then, it has grown exponentially—in 2019, Giving Tuesday online donations reached $511 million, and the estimate for total contributions climbed to $1.97 billion.
So if you’re worn out by the constant barrage of messages to buy, buy, buy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might want to reach out to your neighbors, your local service organizations, or any charity you feel moved to support, and do some giving today. That doesn’t have to mean monetary contributions, either—it can include volunteering, advocacy, or simply helping another human being who needs your assistance in any way. It might mean the gift of music, or helping a child with her homework, or donating clothes to people without homes, or just showing kindness to a stranger.
In one example of selfless giving this year, the Playing for Change Foundation will hold a free Giving Tuesday online concert and fundraiser called Peace Through Music: Global Event for Social Justice, on their Facebook Live page here. There you’ll see artists Carlos and Cindy Blackman Santana, Jack Johnson, Keb’ Mo’, Mavis Staples, Peter Gabriel, Ringo Starr, Robbie Robertson, Rhiannon Giddens and Yo-Yo Ma give the gift of their music to the world.
This is the Day whereon the Ocean of God’s mercy hath been manifested unto men, the Day in which the Day Star of His loving-kindness hath shed its radiance upon them, the Day in which the clouds of His bountiful favor have overshadowed the whole of mankind. Now is the time to cheer and refresh the down-cast through the invigorating breeze of love and fellowship, and the living waters of friendliness and charity.
Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and the head of his Faith after his passing, said to a Christian minister:
Let us have love and more love, a love that melts all opposition, a love that conquers all foes, a love that sweeps away all barriers, a love that aboundeth in charity, large-heartedness, tolerance, and noble-striving, a love that triumphs over all obstacles, a boundless, resistless, sweeping love.
This spirit of love that abounds in charity can infuse the entire world with friendliness and fellowship. Think about it: when you receive an unanticipated gift of love, how does it make you feel? What happens in your heart? That feeling of surprise, delight, and gratitude, multiplied a million times, can have a profound impact on humanity’s future.
Just one of the hundreds of true stories about Abdu’l-Baha’s service to humanity illustrates this principle of love and charity for all. When Abdu’l-Baha was released from prison, where he had spent 40 years of his life, he traveled for the first time to the West, to Europe and North America. In 1912, when he arrived by steamship in New York, the place he wanted to visit before any other was the Bowery, New York City’s skid row.
“I am in love with the poor,” Abdu’l-Baha told Juliet Thompson, an American Baha’i artist who lived in New York. She accompanied him to the Bowery Mission that night, heard his moving talk, and then watched as he shook hands, one by one, with the hundreds of homeless people there. He gave every homeless person there at least one silver coin, today’s equivalent of six dollars, enough for a bed for the night and two meals at the Mission. This symbolic gift, Abdu’l-Baha said in his talk at the Mission that April night, represented his love and care for these indigent men:
Tonight I am very happy, for I have come here to meet my friends. I consider you my relatives, my companions; and I am your comrade.
You must be thankful to God that you are poor, for Jesus Christ has said, “Blessed are the poor.” He never said, “Blessed are the rich.” He said, too, that the Kingdom is for the poor and that it is easier for a camel to enter a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom. Therefore, you must be thankful to God that although in this world you are indigent, yet the treasures of God are within your reach; and although in the material realm you are poor, yet in the Kingdom of God you are precious. Jesus Himself was poor. He did not belong to the rich. He passed His time in the desert, traveling among the poor, and lived upon the herbs of the field. He had no place to lay His head, no home. He was exposed in the open to heat, cold and frost – to inclement weather of all kinds – yet He chose this rather than riches.
As Abdu’l-Baha and Juliet Thompson left the Bowery, one of the Baha’is with them asked about the real impact of such charity. Juliet wrote in her diary that Abdu’l-Baha replied “Assuredly, give to the poor. If you give them only words, when they put their hands into their pockets after you have gone, they will find themselves none the richer for you!”
Today, on Giving Tuesday, we can each give something.