Years ago when we were in debt, every single extra nickel went to paying off our debt. However, we promised ourselves that once that was paid off we would do two things: increase our retirement savings and begin a regular program of charitable giving.
Our retirement savings continue to be worrisome, because it feels as if we got off to such a late start in our stupidity with money and will never catch up. However, I know we are doing well and force ourselves to prioritize savings while we can. When M was working full-time our strategy was to save his paychecks for retirement/long-term goals, save my after-tax side income, and save/live on my full-time job income. From all income sources we allotted 10% for charitable giving and have stuck to it. Now that it’s just me working we still save my after-tax side income, live/save on my full-time job income, and give 10% away.
We do not have a set pattern or formula for our giving, although we do tend to allocate a portion to give more personally. To friends in need, to people who cross our paths, to girl scouts selling cookies and to kids selling gift wrap. Most of its annonymous, and we like it that way. It is important to us to help our community.
This time of year is always hard, because there is so much need. As affluent as our country is, there are so many hungry, homeless, or both. Sometimes it is by choice, sometimes because of poor choices, sometimes because of circumstances beyond their control. We try to use our best judgment in deciding when, where, how much to give; it is almost a leap of faith where we cross our fingers and hope for the very best outcome.
My favorite organizations always get a check in December, and at random times throughout the year. I have received so many holiday cards and calendars as gifts from charities that I gave them away to friends who still send Christmas cards and brought a dozen calendars to the office for the staff. Getting older myself means I am having more and more of a soft spot for elder care organizations, because someday I too may be in need of their services.
Every time I write that check, though, I think about those who donate their time. Part of me wishes I was one of those who could comfortably do that, but sadly, I am not. If I were to volunteer, I would want some solo job, like shelving books at the library or stuffing envelopes or updating mailing lists. Something simple and not too public-interaction intensive.
Why this is all coming to mind this morning? M and I have been asked to participate in a children’s Christmas party event hosted by one of his running groups, and we are both rather ambivalent on the idea for different reasons. This is the third year we have been asked to help out, and the first year we do not have a reasonable excuse to not participate. For M it is the expectation of higher levels of participation, for me it is the anxiety of not knowing, not fitting in with many of these local runner people. They are all very nice folks, but they definitely fall into the M’s friends camp and live and breathe long distance running, training, nutrition, and equipment that goes along with their chosen sport. I have nothing to add to those conversations, and that is the dominating aspect of conversation and interacton. Physically I also feel like a standout. With my thicker, curvier frame I defintely look like a super-sized person standing next to the average runner female. The discomfort is all mine – no one is openly doing or saying anything that makes me feel like the lone water buffalo in a herd of gazelle – but until I learn to lower the volume on the voices inside my head it’s not much fun for me to spend an entire afternoon hanging out and rubbing shoulders.
I have no idea what I will do on this one. It is different when we are hosting runner folks at the house – I am hosting, therefore busy with cooking and serving. When we attend parties at other homes I have to make small talk and force myself to be interested and attentive to things and details I know little about and have nothing to offer and it stresses me out. I do try to participate, be social, but I am always relieved when enough time has passed and we can leave. The occasions are rare when I must be present, so M can attend alone and enjoy socializing with his peers without having to worry about my anxiety and boredom.
Ugh. Maybe I could take up drinking for the season and self-medicate my social anxiety away.