You know the scene: a homeless person is sleeping on a subway station floor, covered in cardboard boxes to shield from the cold, their sockless feet exposed to the bitter bite of a winter's night. Your heart goes out to that person. But what can you do? What do you do?
I remember the first time I truly felt the issue of homelessness. I was a college student at the University of Southern California--as privileged a place as there is in this country--and we were riding around one Sunday morning through downtown Los Angeles after enjoying a hearty breakfast.
As my college chums and I rode up and down the streets that morning, there were dozens of homeless people on every block, but under the entrance of what once was a retail store but now was just am empty shell was a family of homeless. And all their belongings, stacked in shopping cart and plastic bags.
That is where they lived: Mom, dad, I can't remember how many children but more than three, one in a stroller. We drove slow enough so I could the faces of those parents, how tired and worn out they were, their looks of sadness and hopelessness.
We looked at them as we drove past, drove past again a few minutes later because we could not believe what we had seen, we children of privilege and blessings. We sat silent for much of the rest of the ride.
I cried when I got home. But what could I do?
What I did was remember. I've remembered for years, decades now--this happened in 1980--and now I find myself in a position to do more than cry. I've often given money, sometimes volunteered my time, to help those who haven't been dealt as good a hand as me.
And what I find every time I give is that I feel better, like I am the one who received the gift. I love that feeling!
So while we are upon Giving Tuesday--and LRN employees around the world will be preparing meals for the homeless, volunteering at a hospice and an orphanage, working on conservation projects, and coaching people to improve their resumes and interviewing skills--the real key to these days of service is to remember to be of service the rest of the year.
Try this real-world experiment: look around your world and make note of the people who always are happy and joyful. They often are the people in your circle who are the givers. Contrast them to those that are takers: nothing really ever seems to be enough for those folks, does it?
Most of us fall into the category of being both givers and takers. Think about how you feel when you give; that's always the better feeling than the one you have when you get something.
So, whether or not you take part in Giving Tuesday, remember every day offers opportunities to do good, to have a positive impact in this crazy world. Take advantage of those opportunities.