A follow up to a dose of well-deserved medicine

A story about charitable giving and a response to a Tzedakah Challenge - www.alliepottswrites.com

If you ever need an exercise in patience, ask me where I would like to go to dinner sometime. I’ve found so many great options nearby to choose from, it is difficult to pick just one. Each have their own flavors and benefits. I wish I could support them all. The same holds true for service and outreach programs.

I would like to thank everyone who commented, liked, or otherwise helped serve my husband a taste a of his own medicine last week. He’d thank you too … eventually. But now comes the hard part – picking the recipient for the pledge total (which fell somewhat short of my self-imposed cap, but will benefit a group all the same).

There are a number of organizations that immediately came to mind. For example, my husband is a member of Rotary International which is a group with more than 35,000 clubs located around the world which take on projects, funded by club members and the Rotary Foundation, which are designed to promote peace, fight diseases like Polio, provide clean water, protect women and children, support education, and grow local economies. In fact, I try to make sure that everything I post online would pass the Rotary Club’s Four Way Test:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

They are good guidelines to keep in mind, even if you aren’t a member.

Another program worthy of mention is B.A.R.K.S Book Buddies which stands for Bonding Animals, Reading, Kids & Safety, which is a collaboration of Helping Paws International and InterMountain Therapy Animal‘s R.E.A.D (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program. I first learned about it when Kiddo’s teacher sent a note home stating that each child would, if permitted, be invited to read to a dog during occasional on-site visits at the school. I thought it was a cute idea and signed him right up, which he loved by the way.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that in addition to giving students a reason to look forward to extra reading, the animals help build confidence by acting as an entirely judgement free partner. The program is not limited to only school children either. These therapy dogs also provide assistance to individuals with learning and/or developmental disabilities, comfort those who are sick, or help support with other physical, speech, or occupational therapy goals. Her Royal Highness might find herself volunteering as well one day, if I can ever get her off the pillows.

While this particular program is local to my area, similar programs can be found across the United States as well as Canada, Italy, Slovenia, South Africa, Netherlands, Croatia, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, and Australia.

We also considered making a donation to DonorsChoose.org, which is a crowd funding site much like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where teachers can place funding requests for furniture, equipment, or other supplies. In their words “We make it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need, moving us closer to a nation where students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education.”

The requests aren’t unreasonable either.

One teacher is requesting help with a subscription for Bookflix, a digital literacy resource that strengthens early literacy skills. Another teacher simply wants to be able to purchase a rug for his or her first graders to sit on during group lessons. While these teachers work at different schools, both are in a classrooms where more than a third of students from low‑income households.

DonorsChoose vets requests, but what I like most is the site’s transparency. When you donate, your money is going to the projects and schools you select. You can see how many students will benefit and know that you’ve made a difference in those student’s lives at a very individual level. You can also choose to double all other’s contributions for a specific request.

Now all that is left to do is publicly declare who the recipient will be. However this was one challenge we never expected to ‘win.’ I am instead going to keep our gift relatively anonymous with the knowledge the real winner here isn’t the organization itself, but the people it serves. Nor will we be naming nominees as I encourage anyone in a position to give time or money, to do so, challenged or not. If nothing else, remember to be kind.

I think we can all agree that the world could use some healing right now. While this sort of medicine won’t cure all ills, a little more kindness is something everyone deserves an extra dose of.

Easy Random Acts of Kindness


5 ways to be kind while supporting a cause

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”  – Isaac Asimov

I stumbled upon this quote on http://www.brainyquote.com recently and the statement could well describe my social media feed, especially since October. It seems that everyone is either an expert on a topic or a misguided fool. But here’s the problem – pick an issue, any issue, the what doesn’t matter. Now pick a side. I know people there. Now think of the opposite side of the issue. I know people there too. Smart people. Good people.

I am also related to a few of them. A fact that has caused me some degree of angst, particularly as the year approaches the holiday season. I would rather enjoy my turkey dinner than be caught in the middle of a debate on xyz. Therefore I’ve tried to remain social-media-neutral throughout it all, choosing to “like” pictures of puppies or children at play and instead of click-bait articles designed to impassionate and/or enrage.

I’ve chosen instead for my actions offline to speak louder than my posts. I’ve chosen to be kind and here are just a few ways you can too.

  1. Give, but give smart

There are as many charities out there, but unfortunately, not all are as giving to the causes they are expected to champion as others. It is important to do your homework to ensure that your hard-earned money has the best chance of reaching those intended. In the US, you can start your research at http://www.charitynavigator.org/

2. Volunteer your time

If your funds are as tight as mine are, especially at this time of year, you can give the gift of your time. Don’t know where to get started? Well, there are groups out there designed to match you with opportunities too, such as http://www.volunteermatch.org/. A quick search at the time of writing this connected me to over 390 opportunities in my area alone.

3. Go out to eat

If kindness and compassion go hand in hand, the best way to understand people who aren’t like you is to occasionally leave home or venture outside your normal social circle. While there are plenty of articles out there such as 10 ways to experience another culture when traveling abroad or 5 ways culture shock is good for you which touch on how to experience other cultures abroad, it can be just as beneficial to try something new closer to home. There is much to be learned about people who might not share your views or have had other life experiences simply by visiting another state/province, county, city, or neighborhood and sharing a meal.

4. Hold the door

I mean this both literally and figuratively. If you see a person in need, struggling to get by, stop and extend your hand. Give the tired your seat. Smile at a stranger. Say thank you and say it often. You don’t have to spend a dime, give up a weekend, or go out of your comfort zone in order to treat another person how you’d like to be treated.

5. Agree to disagree

This one can be the hardest. At a certain point, you will just have to accept that when given the same set of facts, there are those who arrive at a different conclusion. Stand firm if it is something you believe in, but agree to disagree, and repeat steps 1 – 4. Recognize no one’s journey through life is the same and no dinner quite complete without a couple of sides. Understanding this fundamental truth is the heart of compassion and the greatest, and sometimes the only, kindness you can offer.