I think I was about six years old when I first realized that everything my family had was made possible by the generosity of others. Not in a cliché or inauthentic way, but in a very tangible way. My dad worked for an international campus ministry and had to fundraise support every year to sustain our family of six. For years, knowing that there were abstract donors “subsidizing” my life felt like a burden; I didn’t feel like anything that I had was really mine, or that it was okay for me to ask for things that were nonessential.
This guilt followed me through college as I received scholarships and grants that quite literally made my education possible. Many of us who are raised in the United States receive overt and subliminal messages that the epitome of our American-ness is self-sufficiency. I can’t even pinpoint when it was that I started to believe that I needed to take on this entire world on my own, but I did.
It wasn’t until I graduated from college, had a steady income, and was able to put more thought into my own charitable giving that I realized all my guilt was unfounded. It wasn’t until I got to make my first personally significant gift that I realized the profound joy that comes from being able to financially support something I care about.
When we believe that the ultimate marker of success is self-sufficiency, we become unable to ask for help when we need it. Ironically, when someone asks me for help, I don’t feel like they’re a burden at all! I want to help, and I want to support organizations and people that are doing work that I care about. One of the most beautiful things about being a part of Treetops Collective — as a staff member and a donor — is the constant reminder that we are a part of a community.
In a healthy collective, there is a recognition and a celebration that each person is bringing his or her own gifts and baggage to the group. Over the lifespan of a community, there will be different seasons of strength for each member, as well as seasons of weakness. We will each have opportunities to give and to receive, and that’s what makes a community flourish.
I look back on my childhood — which was awesome, by the way — and can see the many ways my parents were incredibly generous to the people around them. We could have installed a revolving door for the number of people that have come in and out of my parents’ home seeking advice or a listening ear, sharing a meal, in need of a place to stay for a little while. This is who my parents are, and I’ve come to realize that it’s because of who they are that so many donors have chosen to support my dad’s work. Not everyone can open their homes in the way my parents have, but every single donor that has supported my dad’s work has been a part of making my parents’ home as welcoming as it is.
When I gather with my family and friends next week to celebrate Thanksgiving, I will be giving thanks for the many generous people who have chosen to walk with my family as donors, and I will also be giving thanks for you. And I will be giving thanks for the opportunities I have had to join in the work of people and organizations around the world through gifts of my own.
We need one another. This collective is full of people that need one another. We are so thankful for the hundreds of people that have given of their time, talents, networks and treasures to make our work possible. You are in this work with us every day, and we are profoundly grateful that you chose to join us on this journey.
Happy Holidays, dear ones!
If you are reading this post but haven’t yet made the leap to support Treetops Collective’s No Neighbor Alone campaign, never fear! There is still time to join us. Your gift today will help all of our neighbors to find flourishing.
If you have any questions or concerns about donating to Treetops Collective, please send an email to giving@treetopscollective.