Farzana Suri
Farzana Suri

2020 has been the mother of all years. It levelled the field for the entire world, in more ways than possible. What it taught each one, was the ability to come together – to share and respect what you had. Stories of selfless acts of health workers, neighbours and strangers, of families bonding to assuage the pall of gloom. It knitted humanity and gave rise to a new consciousness about environment care.

With the year on its last legs, literally, it’s time to thank and bless it for all it taught you and me. It’s time to give back some more, in the spirit of gratitude. For you are surrounded by blessings, you may have taken for granted.

My mother, a gentle soul believed that the best way to conclude each year was to partake in the generosity of sharing no matter how challenging, the year was for her and the family. She was guilt-ridden walking by the street with bags filled with festival shopping. She would look out for those who genuinely had a tough time making ends meet. She did not trust people who would come during Eid, seeking money for charitable institutions.

She would sift through our clothes, the vessels in the kitchen, our shoes, and fill discarded pillow cases with items, we had not used or were simply lying around, forgotten. She would order grains from the grocers in bulk and send them to relatives, along with a money order of any amount of cash she could spare. Giving began at home.

I can’t help but feel a little guilty of not being more charitable, or having done more volunteer work through the year. During this season of giving, I am in gratitude for the privileged life I lead, and was looking for ways to give back. I spoke to friends, family, colleagues and even strangers. I realise that giving does not need a price tag and can be done in many interesting ways. Donation and action, both help.

I have put together a few things that may inspire you to be creative, now and through the year.

1. Begin with your home first

Often times, giving is placed in the context of strangers. However, a family member or close friend could do with some help, too. Visit an ailing sibling. Offer to take your grandparent for a weekly walk. Give your parent some respite by taking the responsibility of new chores. Work-from-home has been a challenging time for women especially with the added load of work and home. A friend of mine, ensures the women in his house take the day off every week – no cooking and cleaning. They rest, while the kids and men take over. Help a friend with referrals for a job opportunity. Don’t forget your house help or office staff. Give them an off on holidays.

2. Provide lunch/dinner packets to those who work during the holidays

This is the most trying time for services like the police, emergency service providers and health care workers who don't get time off and working practically round-the-clock. Surprise your local police station or hospital ward with special lunch or dinner packets.

3. Adopt a family

Provide monthly food rations for a family that has fallen on hard times. Help the children by arranging ‘used laptops’ for their schooling and basic essentials. A colleague I know has adopted the family of a prisoner and another of her staff who was widowed and has a 2-year-old baby.

4. Give some of your time, listen

Make time for those who feel lonely and struggling with this year’s added grief of isolation and loss. Give them an opportunity to be seen, heard and understood. It’s a harder time for recovering alcoholics and those battling substance abuse. Provide them the opportunity of non-judgmental listening and a meaningful connection.

5. Donate to a charitable cause in a friend's name

Having lost friends this year, a client donates blood regularly in their name. Another donates medicines to the local municipal hospital. A pet lover provides love therapy at a welfare for stray animals.

Ways to close the year by 'giving it back'

6. Host a 'baby shower' for the underprivileged pregnant mothers

Try this. It may just be the best gift of generosity you may have done.

7. Stop inundating institutions with clothes. Give grains and essential items like toiletries instead

8. Commit to feeding 365 people a year

Each year add more people as your income increases.

Ways to close the year by 'giving it back'

9. Provide sleeping bags made of non-destructible material instead of blankets

It’s durable and effective instead of distributing blankets for the homeless.

10. Use the change

Many of you may have a coin box at home. Open it up and share the proceeds with a local medical store to give free medication to those who aren’t able to afford.

11. Support small businesses

They have been the most hit in these times. Make sure you use the services of your local grocer, laundry, apparel shop, fitness trainer, salon, local tailor, etc. Refer them as much people as possible.

Ways to close the year by 'giving it back'

12. Call back employees you had retrenched in case you are looking for more staff

They will add more value and display higher loyalty.

13. Companies can reward employees first before promoting donations to other charities

Employees feel short-changed when companies wax eloquent about donating at charities instead of giving employees a well-deserved bonus. Reward them a healthy bonus. Give a birthday-off as well, so employees can spend time with their loved ones. Make sure, you don’t disturb them with calls and debriefs!

14. Give one day off to employees to volunteer at their favourite charity

15. Give your expertise and time

Not everything needs to be about money. Share your skill with vocational institutions for the lesser privileged. If you are a counsellor, you can counsel children in rehab centres or as an entrepreneur, you can share your learnings to motivate them in that direction.

The biggest value comes to the giver. Set the intention and give from your heart. With even the tiniest act, you are creating a better and kinder world.

I’ll be delighted to hear which one inspired you to act.

Farzana Suri Victory Coach is a life coach from Mumbai and has worked with over 6000 clients across 19 countries. She writes extensively on human relationships, leadership and developing a victory mindset. To know more about her, visit www.farzanasuri.com or reach her on farzana@farzanasuri.com

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