By Stefan Lako, Programs Director
Giving Tuesday started 5 years ago as a way to counteract the patterns of consumerism that follow Black Friday and the post-Thanksgiving shopping tilt so many of us experience. The Christmas season for so many people is a time of stress and anxiety, filled with checking off gift lists. For most of us, we don’t set out with the specific intent of becoming overspending consumers, but rather a heart of generosity and care for our loved ones. However, if there is one thing that our culture fosters well, it is the feeling of urgency to buy things for the sake of the deal and to accumulate material possessions for the sake of status. If we are not quick, we will lose out on the items we need, and the deals we can’t live without.
It becomes very easy to forget our initial intentions motivated by generosity or love, and be left with frustration, anxiety, or cynicism amidst the overspending frenzy occurring in mall in America.
Giving Tuesday creates an avenue for action for you to confront the negative patterns our minds can enter during this season. It aims to provide an opportunity to embrace the love and compassion that the holiday season is about.
This day also gives us the opportunity to highlight the work that we are doing – and invite you to join us in the fight to end child trafficking and abuse in West Africa. I returned from my last trip to Liberia and Benin a little over a month ago and was overcome with both a great sense of shock and awe. Shock due to the magnitude of need, and in awe of how our work there is spurring genuine change. The big picture is daunting – hundreds of thousands of children are trafficked every year throughout the region, kids as young as age 5 are being forced from their homes to work in mines, quarries, and a myriad of other places. Yet despite all this, I have reason to hope. I have had the joy of meeting children reunited with their families. I have seen the proud smiles of parents as they show me what they have accomplished through our microfinance program. I have sat in meetings with government officials who tell us that what we do is making a difference in the lives of the marginalized.
The world can be a difficult place at times, especially for those living with little hope.
But make no mistake, when we fight for justice, transformation takes place. Not only in the lives of those we work with, but in our own lives as well.
So today, I challenge you: this holiday season, choose to engage in bringing hope, freedom, justice and peace. Let your motivations of care and generosity not lead you to stress and anxiety over accumulating material goods, but rather an engaged resolve to be an agent of change. Join with us on this Giving Tuesday in bringing an end to trafficking and abuse!
If you participate in Giving Tuesday this year, encourage others to do the same by getting active on social media using #GivingTuesday!