In an era when the trappings of daily life often drown out the quiet call of the spirit, I’m thankful we’ve adopted this recent tradition of Giving Tuesday. It stands as a beacon of hope in a season when the material world seems to reign supreme. 

This global day of charitable giving reminds us of our shared humanity and offers an opportunity for us – especially for people of faith – to live out our beliefs in a tangible and meaningful way. On this day, generosity and compassion take center stage. And for those who believe every single one of life’s blessings comes from above, this day becomes a sacred duty to extend a helping hand to those in need.

Generosity, a core tenet of most religious traditions, is not a mere suggestion but a divine commandment. For Christians, Scripture unequivocally teaches that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In Islam, the concept of “zakat” even requires Muslims to give a portion of their wealth to those less fortunate. Similarly, Judaism places a strong emphasis on “tzedakah,” the obligation to give to those in need, with the belief that acts of charity are acts of justice.

This time of year typically evokes memories of time surrounded by family, which often includes being surrounded by love and warm food, too. While our team at the Los Angeles Dream Center is busy pretty much every day of the year, cooking up warm meals for our residents, many of these residents don’t have those wonderful memories of a full table surrounded by loved ones on the holidays.

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Frankly, this time of year can be a sad season for many of those I’ve met in this city, especially for families struggling to make ends meet. With a 10% increase in homelessness throughout the City of Los Angeles since last year, we deal with more families falling below the poverty line and a rising need for transitional housing on a daily basis.

Yet with some facing abuse, addiction, and inflation all at once, we’ve watched modern day miracles take place, with families finding a way out of a downward spiral, somehow emerging more stable and prosperous than the year before. The free housing and food that we provide meet basic needs for thousands of families each year, but I’m confident their newfound success is not just a result of material generosity.

It’s been the generosity of quality time that has made a world of difference as well. Counseling, tutoring, and a number of other activities that take time and persistence represent the other forms of generosity that ought not be forgotten this Giving Tuesday. These gestures of compassion swing the doors of opportunity wide open for those who have endured not just financial poverty, but the emotional poverty from lacking strong relationships, friendship, mentorship, and love.

2022 GIVING TUESDAY RAISES RECORD $3.1 BILLION

Consider Evelyn, a resident in our transitional housing program whose outlook on life is remarkably positive. It wasn’t always this way for Evelyn. She experienced years of sexual and physical abuse as a child, leading to a lifestyle of addiction, and living with perpetual despair. In the early days battling addiction, Evelyn told us, “My mom didn’t want me home because of my drug use.” Even when she finally found stability, was married, and soon after had a baby, the COVID recession took its toll as well. “My husband was working, but his hours got cut around the pandemic, and we were about to become homeless,” she laments.

Fast-forward to today, and she’s incredibly thankful for the financial support her family has received. But Evelyn makes it a point to include among her blessings “knowing that we have a safe place and have a community that really cares about us.”  

Generosity on Giving Tuesday can also serve as a paradigm shift for the giver as well. Giving is a remarkably powerful antidote to the consumerism that often pervades a society where creature comforts abound. Doctors even tell us giving helps our own mental health. It reminds us that our worth is not measured by the possessions we accumulate but by the love and care we extend to others. Materialism can lead to spiritual emptiness, but acts of charity become a source of profound fulfillment and purpose.

Whatever your faith, I hope you’ll embrace the spiritual imperative of generosity on Giving Tuesday, allowing acts of kindness to shine as a testament to the enduring power of faith in a troubled world. You’ll do yourself a favor and overcome the pull of the material world that can overpower this time of year as well. 

Your compassion is the reason why folks like Evelyn can now look forward to enjoying the holidays with her family. Sparing both time and treasure can unlock a whole new world for those in need, providing not just relief for their pocket book, but lifting their spirits for years to come. 

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