My wife and I are charitable people. We give our time and money to causes that matter to us. For the last few years we have been giving to food charities. We eat very well – it’s a priority of ours. I have documented in the past how much we enjoy food and the recipes we have created so I will spare you the details. Dinner most days of the week is an event because we believe food is to be enjoyed thoroughly. But we are acutely aware that for some people food is not fun. For some parents simply the thought of feeding the family is a source of unbearable stress. We live in a wonderful country where for some reason people go hungry night after night and that, in our opinion, is not acceptable. So we give to food banks that can leverage their volume of food purchases for the greater good. Giving canned goods is great, but giving cash to a reputable food bank is even better.

Charity does not stop at canned food and cash. And charity is not and should not be limited to adults. If your little spoiled rotten children (mine included) don’t learn from young that the act of giving feels good and helps people, then they are destined to be the creators of the next big life shattering Ponzi scheme. OK, perhaps the outcome will not be that dramatic, but they may not fully value their connection to the community they live in and the larger world that we all share. Since Dev was about three we have had him give away some of his gently used clothes and toys and he has done so willingly with zest and joy…

Until this year.

I think that part of his “mine” mentality is him being 6, and another part is him being an only child. I would also argue that part of it is learning from wily media sources, and society on the whole, that having stuff is much better than not having stuff. While that may be true to an extent giving stuff trumps it all. He cried when we suggested he give away a couple of toy trucks that were virtually new because he never played with them. They were huge and cool and untouched for years. Apparently he liked them like that. He was also unmoved by our declaration that while Michael Jackson made high-water pants look cool, it is not advisable to keep a closet full of short long pants. And extra tight shirts went out of style in the 90s. To expand upon our point we explained to him that MJ gave more than anyone so if he really wanted to emulate his hero he needed to be giving more. That seemed to work on both the toys and the clothes. He gave until it hurt but he felt good about it. We are planning more charity this year so he’d better get mentally prepared!

On a related topic I feel compelled to share something that happened a couple of weeks ago that put a lot in perspective for me.

About a month and a half ago there was a new roof put on our house. I had to get rid of a bunch of stuff from the attic in order for the workers to have space to measure, and do some roof-guy things. One of the items I tossed was a Christmas tree. I used it for my first and second holidays in my own apartment and held on to it for no obvious reason. The tree was old in age but new in terms of usage. Not too long after I discarded the tree my landlord (who is also my grandmother) told me that there was a family of four – including mom, dad, a boy Dev’s age and a younger girl – who goes through our trash and noted that we have been tossing an unusual amount of stuff lately. They were excited by this fact. The father told my grandmother “we have a great Christmas tree this year because of them. We haven’t had a tree in many, many years.” Just reproducing that quote makes me emotional. Who would have thought that my little old tree could bring a family joy? I didn’t, and that’s why it was in the trash. The fact that it did is both powerfully inspiring and extremely sad. The human spirit is strong and resilient. And many of us still take much of what we have for granted, recession or no.

Give until you cry like Dev, but make sure the tears are of joy and personal satisfaction. Below are only a few of the charities and non-profits that I give to or have given to:

– The Food Bank for New York City
– Idealist
– Miracle on Madison/The Children’s Aid Society