The Joys Of Giving

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I hold Laddu’s hand as we walk slowly to her school. We stop and stare, we inspect rocks, we look for traces of snow. It is an excruciatingly slow process. We push the door open and she rushes to her friends and I swear internally. I extract her lunch box, put it away in the lunch cart. I hang up her winter jacket and swear again. Arrayed in her cubby like mini soldiers are favor bags with tiny cards, candy canes, pencils and coloring books. I sigh and gather them in my hands. Each has a tiny note wishing Laddu the best of the season. I wave and head straight to Target.

An hour later, I enter home laden with stuff. Doodle pads, individually wrapped candy, favor bags with ties, books, matching PJs and mini table tennis. I spend the next hour on the phone with Amma while I write notes, stuff favor bags with doodle pads and candy and tie each. My island is littered with snips of wrapping paper, bits of cellophane tape and glitter.

I have half an hour before I have to rush to the twins school to organize their winter party. I sit in front of my laptop and eat without realizing what I am eating. Few things catch my eye. Our local school district posts that a “secret” Santa walked into one of our district schools and paid $2400 worth of school lunch balances effectively allowing children to start with a clean account come the new year. Following suit, six other “secret” Santas did the same for schools throughout the district bringing their donations to over $5000. I felt my spirits rise. I felt chuffed as if I were doing the giving. I clicked the heart button on all those posts and looked at my timeline.

Yesterday on a whim, when FB prompted me to set up a fundraiser for my upcoming birthday, I browsed through and picked the Dave Thomas Foundation and set the goal to $200. I saw $60 of my goal was met through friends. My messenger had an unread message pledging another $100 as soon as the person could find a way to donate from overseas. I felt overwhelmed, grateful and mostly just joyous.

Growing up charity was not something I had seen too often. If it existed, it was mostly handing out Deepavali bonuses to the house help and to whoever knocked on the door and demanded a “gift”. Saathi, on the other hand, grew up watching his dad set aside 1% of his pay each year as donations to those less privileged. Over the course of our marriage, we have reached an uneasy truce. We give but not as much as Saathi would like and way more than what I would have been comfortable with. Our nonprofits of choice have been Sankara Eye Foundation and AID India.

This year when I attended the adoption retreat, I had a chance to meet and talk to people who drove policy at places like the Dave Thomas Foundation and Annie E Casey Foundation. I spoke with them over lunch, on walks, during brainstorming sessions. None of these were occasions where they were pushing an agenda or looking to recruit donors. The one thing that I walked away with was immense respect for the passion they brought to these organizations and a deep resonance with the kind of work they were doing.

Dave Thomas Foundation, in particular, focused on children in foster care. Annie E. Casey foundation worked on programs addressing the specific needs of children age 9 and over when their chance of getting adopted into a forever family nosedives. Second Nurture was looking to bridge the gap, to find ways to get the community involved and remain supportive of those families that decided to adopt from foster care.

So, when I scrolled through the list of nonprofits that FB lists, Dave Thomas Foundation was the one that pulled at me. I knew it was very possible that there would be no donations. So as of this morning when I realized I was just $40 away from the modest goal I had set, I realized that giving is joyous. As much as cliched sentiments go, there is something truly magical about this season, the end of the year when we all look forward to starting on a new note that prompts us to turn the spotlight away from us. We cheer when we see people around out pay it forward. We cry at hallmark movies. We hope for miracles. We reach for hope even if the months before have been dark. We root for happy endings.

This year I know my birthday wish has been granted. A passing thought has borne fruit and I am closer to meeting Saathi in his donation goals. I wish for you, the same kind of joy I have experienced today.

Seasons greetings all.

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