Which Is More Valuable? Your Time or Your Money?

>>VolunteersI promised in a post a few weeks ago that I was going to do something that taught my girls the real meaning of the holidays, and impressed upon them how blessed they are. I’m happy to report I did it and it felt good!

We “adopted” a little girl to give Christmas gifts at my daughter’s school. My daughters and I made a day out of shopping for this little girl. We picked out the clothes and toys her list indicated she would like. What I loved about it is that my girls loved buying for her. They don’t know her, and never will because of the anonymity of the program, but they cared for her, and made it their mission to make sure she had a good Christmas.

The real learning experience came later that evening when my daughters were helping me wrap the girl’s gifts. I said, “Do you see all these presents she’s getting? Is this about the same amount you just received from your Grandma for Christmas?” (The answer was yes.) What I saw at that moment in my six-year-old’s eyes was an understanding, a final grasp of the concept that gifts are not given equally to all children. I don’t think she realized it before then. The current focus at our house lately has been what is “fair.” (I actually ban the word on some days when I get tired of the whines that one daughter got more of something than the other. They can get as petty as arguing over a piece of cheese.) But in this moment,  my daughter realized that things aren’t always divided equally. If you’re blessed you need to recognize that and give back.

This whole experience got me thinking: how should we all give back? Time or money? Both are valuable. There’s a finite amount of both in our lives. The answer, I think, depends on you. I get a good hourly rate for what I do most of the time. If I volunteer for an eight hour shift at a charity, I could make several hundred dollars if I was doing my freelance work. In that example, I believe it would be more beneficial for the charity if I dedicated the earnings from one day as a donation to them. Nonprofits can maximize and multiply our dollars in a big way in the form of “matching grants” and purchasing items (like food) in bulk or at a discount.

It’s something to consider next time you want to give back – and it also depends on what you want out of it. Sometimes being physically present with people in need is what grounds us and there’s an immeasurable value to that. Nonprofits need “bodies” to accomplish their goals – it can’t all be done with staff. In my case, it felt great to shop for a little girl’s Christmas presents. I felt an overwhelming desire to make sure her gifts were perfectly chosen and impeccably wrapped. It won’t fix everything in her life, but it will make her happy. It’s that feeling that I hope gets her by and gets her thinking that life will get better, and that she can succeed.

I wonder who got more out of the Christmas adoption experience – our family or her? Knowing we ended up gaining priceless lessons makes me want to give more.

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