Giving Tuesday? More Like Taking Tuesday

Holidays can be hard. On the one hand, they’re meant to celebrate, to acknowledge and honor, to offer perspective and prompt reflection. We have days for love and labor, for generosity and gratitude. These things are awesome.

But on the other hand, holidays can be exclusionary. They can be hypocritical. They often serve as distortions of the historical record and they are often gamed for commercial gain.

I consider myself a positive, upbeat kind of gal. I co-founded an organization called Ministry of Awesome, for Pete’s sake. And yet, I find myself easily repelled by holiday-affiliated marketing campaigns. They seem to be even more manipulative than usual, even more reinforcing of the message that if you haven’t bought enough, consumed enough, spent enough, you’re doing it wrong.

(A year ago, I learned that most of you don’t share this sentiment. My piece about the WestJet holiday commercial got more comments of disagreement than almost anything else I’ve written, ever.)



Consider this, then, to be my second annual Grinch Column. It’s been prompted by a new holiday, one that -- like the WestJet Santa giveaway -- is nearly impossible to object to unless you are a horrible person with a lump of coal for a heart. That's Giving Tuesday, a day I didn’t even know existed until this week.

But I woke up on Tuesday and checked my email, and there it was: message after message from charities asking for money, reminding me that if I haven’t given enough, I’m doing it wrong. “Join the worldwide celebration of giving.” “Don’t forget us.” “Financial Aid challenge.” “Please consider us on #GivingTuesday.” “#GivingTuesday celebrates generosity and the organizations that mean something to you. Like ours.” Donation request after donation request from charity after charity, e-hands outstretched like a virtual version of beggars in an Indian slum, leaving me feeling at least as torn and impotent as if I were facing those beggars in real life.

Corporations -- never ones to miss out on a bandwagon leverage opportunity -- have wisely jumped on board. Johnson’s, H&M, Omaha Steaks, Eventbrite, and others have initiated campaigns to show how awesome they are for tying their corporate social responsibility efforts to a day with a hashtag.

Lump of coal for a heart, right?

I love the idea of a giving day. I love the idea of giving, generally. The thing that rankles isn’t the concept of celebrating generosity. It is the expectation of generosity. It is the narcissistic, self-congratulatory publicity about how generous we are. It is the co-option of the act of giving into an opportunity to celebrate not altruism -- but ourselves.

True gifts carry no expectation of return or reward; they have no strings attached. Forget #GivingTuesday. Quietly, humbly, without any form of promotion, let’s work instead toward a #GivingLifestyle.

On Facebook, my friend Brian summed it up nicely: “After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday, I'm ready for Regular Old Wednesday.” Me, I’m ready for the opportunity to give because I feel a spirit of generosity -- not because a marketing campaign told me to.

Enjoy your holiday season.

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