Lessons learned from holiday habits

T ’was the night before Christmas and Scrooge-like, I thanked a shopkeeper for not playing Christmas music. Not three hours later, at a Christmas Eve service, the congregation collectively drew a deep breath and started in on “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” In that instant I was thankful for the music but even more thankful that the words came effortlessly to mind, just in time, as if I had practiced for years. Which made me realize that I had practiced for years, even if only a few minutes each year.

It does not take much for an act, if executed regularly…even infrequently, to embed itself deep into your being. I made a mental note to watch for the pull of rare but regular acts and how they shape us.

I did not have to wait long to start taking notes.

The end of the old year and the beginning of the new year is a busy time for us. Donors create endowments all year-long but we see more of them at year-end. Those endowments regularly pump out gifts. They remind us quarterly or semiannually or annually to spread some charity around. I like to think about the regular flow of money to charities going on forever, even after the people who created them (or manage them) are long gone.

What I should have been noting was how endowment-creators are changed by their creation. The regular reminders that your fund is about to give more money away embeds charity deep within you. It changes how you view yourself and your community. “Charitable” becomes who you are, even as the daily rush of living lets Scrooge-like thoughts bubble up.

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