I’ve a daily practice. It’s pretty much the first thing I do after waking in the morning and stretching in bed. I stand slowly and cross to the bookcase where I’ve got a pile of coins set aside. I pick up a few coins and drop them in a nearby collection box, thinking of myself, members of my family, and close friends on whose behalf I’m giving a coin. And then a coin in memory of those people who recently departed. The going rate for each is a nickel. When the box is full, or after a period of time, I total what’s in the box and make sure to write checks covering that amount and a little more to one or more charities.
It’s like a Zen exercise; the lessons learned from this daily act unfold with time and go far beyond the amount in checks I send out.
There’re a few obvious ones: I think of my family, friends, and loved ones on a daily basis; a non-profit receives a donation it otherwise wouldn’t have, and most important are all the effects this act has on me in both the short term and long term.
It’s a humbling act, having to give away funds before I even know what the day has waiting for me, before eating or even having my first cup of coffee. It’s a reminder that others are more important or at least as important as me or my needs. I try to keep that in mind as I give the coins. Maybe I’m here, in place, just to be able to give these few coins and this is my purpose in the Universe as part of the bigger picture. Yeh, I know diddly-squat about anything – but connecting and being open to others is very important. The Zen is in letting these vague thoughts expand knowing I’ll never be able to follow that trail to the end and accept that that is OK. It’s the process and journey that counts.
The funny thing is, once you start giving, the opportunities to give seem to grow. Mailing lists. Somehow after you send the first check, word gets around. There are lots of worthy causes both locally, nationally, and worldwide. I try to give a little here and a little there. It’s difficult deciding. It may not be much to any particular fund; I’ll never be asked to sit on a board or have my name on the letterhead.
Locally there are homeless, abused, disaster victims, impoverished, veteran groups, et al. Similar funds exist nationally or have local branches. Worldwide there are unfortunately refugees who need help. Red Cross and similar organizations. And there are other non-profits such as the Animal Humane Societies. A list would seem endless. Help is always needed and welcome. You can pick and choose.
And now while writing this I’m beginning to understand that giving has also kept me alive to this point so that I can encourage others to make this also a part of their lives. At first, perhaps not every day – new habits are hard to establish, but little by little. Set aside a penny. If you forget, reach into your purse or pocket, take out a coin, and move it to another place having in mind that when you return home that coin (or equivalent – no sense getting bent out of shape) is going into the coin bank – jar, basket, small box – you set aside for charity.
I’ve come to realize that by giving others value, the coins attest to their worth, I validate myself. Giving charity is an inexpensive way to pay for self-validation.
And it needs to be said, that charity is not just something that involves money. Smiles and committing random acts of kindness count too. They count a lot!
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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