This Christmas, I experienced something new. This something new is what I call “Giving Fatigue”. Giving Fatigue is the emotional strain resulting from constantly being asked to give to worthy causes.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not fault charities for asking for donations this time of year. I am aware that it is very important to capitalize on the spirit of giving, in order to meet the communities’ needs throughout the year. But, how does one withstand the constant requests for donations? Moreover, how does this experience affect our children?
I feel as though I am approached for a donation at every turn–the Salvation Army kettles at the grocery store, being asked “will you add a dollar donation?” at the toy store checkout, and friend requests for charity donations on Facebook.
I have found that giving money to charity is not enough to lessen the painful awareness of suffering and need in the world. In the past year, my husband and I have made meaningful contributions to UNICEF, World Vision, and The S.P.C.A. We have also opened our wallets when our friends, school, and community were fundraising for Cancer Research, Santa’s Anonymous, and other worthy causes.
It is important to me that I teach my son the value of giving, as much as appreciating everything we have as a family. We are not materialistic. We take the stand that it is not what you have that matters, but who you are and what you do.
Both my husband and I work in helping professions. I even volunteer at a non-profit society. It feels good to help others, but I still find myself vulnerable to “giving fatigue”.
It was my son that illuminated this emotional underbelly of charity. He is a very sensitive and empathic boy. I was surprised when he did not want to participate in his school’s Extreme Outreach Stocking fundraiser. When I picked him up from school he was the only child that was not carrying an empty stocking for our family to fill. When we talked it over, I discovered his extreme discomfort with thinking about needy children.
As the time drew closer to Christmas, my son seemed quite sad. This was unexpected, given that children are normally very excited about Christmas. When I recounted the past month, I realized that we had dropped off a donation at the SPCA, we had donated our used clothing to a community centre, we had put together a charity stocking for another child, and selected goats, school supplies, and immunizations for children in Africa. Added on top of that is the responsibility to recycle and compost for our planet– It’s enough to make your head spin.
This Christmas season, I discovered that I had focused so much on giving to others that I had forgotten to reserve energy for plain and simple fun. Christmas elicits a spirit of giving. But we owe it to our children to let them be children…to enjoy the lights, the treats, the warmth, the family time, the excitement, and yes—even the presents.
There will always be a worthy cause to support, and someone else in need. But we musn’t forget that we have to nurture ourselves and our families, before we can share with others. After all, the greatest gift we can give our children at Christmas, is joy.