So Christmas is over (unless you’re on the Orthodox calendar; in which case Happy 2nd Day of Christmas!). I’m now done with my 12 Days of Giving project for 2016, and I thought it would be worth taking a look at how it went. First, some notes.

Growing up, I went to mass pretty much every Sunday with my parents. Maybe the most profound thing I remember hearing was something one of the priests said during the homily:

Every one of you writes a theological document: your checkbook.

I can’t find a good citation, but it seems to be a paraphrase of a Billy Graham quote (perhaps an odd choice for a Catholic priest):

A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell you who and what you worship.

I’ve thought a lot about that. It’s true, I think, and I would extend it to your daily planner. Where you spend your time is at least as important as how you spend your money. Graham’s quote has a good punch (and my priest’s reformulated phrasing turns that into a more outwardly-facing conviction), but the idea shouldn’t be new for any Christian. Matthew 6:21 reads:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Very true (and you can even get the message in faux-folk form if you like). I aim to put my heart somewhere good.

So, the actual recap. Here are the organizations that got some of my Christmas giving:

International Rescue Committee
Saving lives amidst some of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Researching and treating childhood cancer and other chronic and life-threatening diseases in children.
Southern Poverty Law Center
Fighting hate and bigotry and protecting the civil rights of the people those forces target.
American Civil Liberties Union
Defending and preserving the civil rights of every American.
American Lupus Foundation
Funding research and education on a poorly-understood disease affecting over 1.5 million Americans.
Kids Corporation
Improving literacy and math competency in Newark, New Jersey.
American Society for the Prevention of Curelty to Animals
America’s first and largest humane society.
City Fresh
Building a more just and sustainable food system in Northeast Ohio.
The Internet Archive
The Internet’s library; a hugely important archive of web pages, text documents, videos, music, and other digital artifacts.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Defending civil rights online, and our best experts on how the law and technology interact.
Fund for Legal Name/Gender Changes
Helping trans folks get their legal documents to match reality.
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Fighting for reproductive rights for all women.

I didn’t do much careful financial planning ahead of time for this, and I ended up spending a lot more on this than I would have if I had just bought “normal” Christmas presents for folks. The amounts were not split evenly, but all told I ended up giving $900, a bit over half of which was in honor of specific people. Especially combined with the rather expensive primary season and various other smaller things throughout the year, that’s well into the “give until it hurts” territory for me, but it still feels tiny, compared both with the enormity of what these organizations are trying to accomplish and what I spend on movies.

(I am, incidentally, super uncomfortable talking about money like this, but everything I’ve read on the subject suggests, and my knowledgable non-profit friends confirm, that doing so encourages others to give, as well, so I’ll choke down the discomfort over offending social norms (which I think are probably mostly destructive anyway).)

A brief aside: I’ve heard that “give until it hurts” phrase a thousand times. I get the idea: for giving to be meaningful to the giver, it has to be sacrificial, and if it doesn’t hurt, it’s likely not much of a genuine sacrifice. But more recently, I read that the real objective is to give until it no longer hurts; that sacrificial giving should be second nature. I think that one’s more complicated.

I enjoyed doing this a lot. Some of the charities on here are ones I have given to in the past, and some were new for me. I’d never heard of the International Rescue Committee until about a week before Christmas, and am now hella impressed by their work. I’m very likely to do something similar to this next year, although I may plan it out better, and will likely set myself some other parameters, like some number of new recipients.

In the meantime… someone just asked what I’m doing with my first 100 days… 🤔