As 2013 draws to a close, my mailbox is overflowing with donation pleas from every charitable organization I have ever donated to, might donate to, or whose website I once visited. It always makes me think that it is time to reevaluate my charitable giving in the same way that I need to reevaluate which magazines I subscribe to (way too many), and which memberships I have (again, way too many). I want to support so many different causes, so it’s hard for me to limit myself. But I think it is time to be more mindful and specific with what I believe in, and where I spend my money.
There are several causes that I am interested in – children and reading/creativity/imagination; conservation/national parks/state parks/preserving The Great Outdoors; health and fitness; and protection of women and children. I have donated to Reading is Fundamental for years, and although I donated to City Harvest when I lived in New York, I haven’t decided upon something similar here. There are dozens of organizations and charities that fit these categories, and I’ve narrowed my interest down to maybe six that I’m most interested in – Children and Nature Network; the Arlington Public Library; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Girl Scouts of America (I’ve written before about my interest in being involved in Girl Scouting); the National Park Foundation; and Trails for Youth.
You will notice that only one of them involves bicycles. Although I bike for transportation, and can’t wait to try mountain biking at some point in 2014, my overarching interest is getting children to experience nature, and be active outdoors. Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, made a huge impression on me when I read it years ago. I remember enjoying camping when I was a kid, making forts in the forest, and campsites for my dolls. Having that time to play, make up stories, and build play sites allowed me to act out all that stuff I read in the books I could barely put down. So reading and the outdoors had a huge impact on who I am today (and probably fed my overactive imagination, but that’s another story). And as children become more and more tech-savvy, and less familiar with nature, they will have less interest in protecting green spaces – national, state, and local parks could become as extinct as the things in them they are trying to preserve. And I think this will be a problem down the road.
However, I do not want to just send money to these organizations. I want to be involved. I want to volunteer, and interact with the organization as well as the children they are helping. Of course, I won’t have any time until after the wedding and honeymoon. That gives me time, then, to be mindful about which group I choose. I will have time to read up on each one, follow the work they do for a while, see how they operate. If I donate my time, I want to make sure it goes to a place with the most impact, and where I can be more useful.
It is hard for me to sit back and wait and calculate. I get ideas and want to run with them NOW. Even wedding planning is a bit torturous – I still have just under 6 months to wait! It is hard for me to be patient, and let things unfold; my natural instinct is to be proactive and DO SOMETHING. So learning to be mindful is probably a really good thing for me. It could also be a New Year’s Resolution. Hm…