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John McMillin: #Giving Tuesday to follow Black Friday, Cyber Monday

jfelkins • Nov 28, 2015 at 6:00 PM

There are a lot of traditions for many of us. Who will carve the turkey? Will mom bring her special cranberry salad? I count myself lucky that I have such traditions this time of year.

As a staff member of the United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland, I encounter people on a too regular basis who don’t worry about having turkey, ham or any trimmings. They worry about putting food on the table—any food.

Why bring this up now? Am I trying to put a damper on the Christmas spirit?  Well, because this Tuesday is the fourth year of #GivingTuesday. A global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, #GivingTuesday is observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and it kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Why give? Sure, there are people who made not just bad but terrible choices. There are also so many people in our communities that just had strings of bad luck. Allow me to give one example.  Joseph did not ask to lose his wife from cancer. Once a two-income household, Joseph and his wife downsized two years earlier in preparation for what they knew would be a difficult road to travel. They worked hard for many years. They had savings and good insurance and thought they were well prepared.

Unfortunately, the bills kept coming, and one specialist led to another. Joseph’s workplace also downsized and he found himself without a job in his late 50s. It didn’t take long to go through savings and now that she’s gone, he has lost all hope of every living comfortably as he once did. Now he struggles to pay the utilities, put food on the table and simply make ends meet.

First let me say that, no, we can’t meet all of his needs. However, we do have partner programs that can help with a portion of his utility payment. They can help with prescription drug costs, some clothing and food. We can help make sure he can afford to have a medical check-up or be able to see a doctor for routine procedures.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad. Instead, I would hope that this one example plants a seed. You can’t save everyone, it’s true, but you can work to save as many as possible. The smallest act of kindness or of generosity can make waves. Because you choose to make a difference, even a small financial gift can be added to hundreds of other small gifts to make a real change in someone’s life.

Although I’d hope you choose the United Way, let me just say that I applaud any act of generosity. Whether you volunteer, you’re involved through your church with helping others or you feel that you have the ability to give, just a little, to help others through your favorite charity, you can make a difference. That is a gift that keeps on giving and a worthy tradition for us all. Join others giving this Tuesday at givetouwwc.org or to find out more about your local United Way.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at [email protected].

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