Only one season for giving?

By Wess Staffordpresident and CEO, Compassion International The last two months of the year have traditionally been known as “the … Continued

By Wess Stafford
president and CEO, Compassion International

The last two months of the year have traditionally been known as “the season of giving.” Whether it is the good cheer of the holidays or the appeal of potential tax deductions, the year’s end seems to prompt charitable giving. Nonprofit organizations are keenly aware of the opportunity presented by the holiday season. This year, I expect that end-of-year appeals will feature a double plea for generosity. Not only will they rely on the tried and true annual “season of giving” sentiment, but they will also likely include some version of the nearly ubiquitous theme:

In these tough economic times…

Now more than ever…

In today’s climate…

In no way am I disparaging organizations that are using these appeals. My own organization has been long blessed by end-of-year giving and, especially “in these tough economic times,” we are particularly humbled by the generosity of our donors. But what are we really saying? If we are saying that this is the season for giving or that current economic conditions merit increased generosity, aren’t we implying that giving is unnecessary at other times of the year or when the American economy is strong? It is as though we live under the delusion that if things are going smoothly for us–either as individuals or as a nation–then surely things are going smoothly for everyone else.

The need is not greater because of the Christmas tree in the living room or the wreath on the front door. When the stockings are put away and the ornaments stowed in the attic, will starving children somehow be less hungry? Will the homeless suddenly have shelter?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that even during the Christmas season people are needlessly suffering and dying from things like starvation, HIV/AIDS, malaria and a lack of basic medical care. In good economic times, children are still sold into prostitution, abused and abandoned. Even when the stock market is up, there are still millions of children who face an uncertain future due to a lack of education or the uphill battle of caring for a family ravaged by AIDS.

My heart breaks for the struggles that so many Americans are facing this Christmas. It is absolutely right that we be concerned about the families who are struggling to keep their homes, the mothers who are desperately trying to make ends meet each month, the fathers who feel the frustration of being downsized and unable to provide for their families. We should all do what we can to help our neighbors in need. But we can’t forget those for whom poverty isn’t part of an economic downturn but rather endemic generation after generation. And when things improve in our own nation–and God willing, this will happen soon–we can’t forget those still suffering.

There is no wrong time to be generous. In these tough economic times and in the good times to come, it is important to do what we can to ease the burden for those less fortunate than ourselves. During the holiday season, and in every season, we can bring help and hope to those in need.

Wess Stafford is the president and CEO of Compassion International, the world’s largest Christian child development organization that releases children from poverty through one-to-one child sponsorship.

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