By Thomas H. Little, Ph.D. and SLLF Director of Curriculum Development and Research
December 7th, 2020

The holiday season is once again upon us. This year, because of the pandemic, it is unlike any holiday season in recent memory. We are shopping online instead of hitting the mall. When we do go out, we are wearing masks and keeping our distance instead of offering holiday hugs and handshakes. On Christmas morning, we will more likely share our gifts over zoom than over a warm cup of coffee or cocoa. Our fondest Christmas wish this year is not for our “two front teeth” or a “dolly that laughs and cries,” but for a vaccine that will end this deadly pandemic and someday get us back to some semblance of normalcy.

However, I would like to suggest that at least in one way, this season is no different than in the past: it is still the season of giving. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or another seasonal festival, this is the time of sharing. Gifts to food banks, donations to charity and contributions to worthy causes all increase during the holiday season and will likely go up this season as well. Indeed, with the world’s economy slowed by the pandemic, the need is greater than ever for this season of giving.

In light of that need and the holiday season, SLLF is going to do something very different at its Board Meeting and Leadership Forum this year. Like everyone else, we will be holding the meeting virtually this year. However, that is not the only difference between this year’s meeting and previous Board Meetings. Instead of giving members of our Board of Directors and Advisory Council a token of our appreciation like a leather-bound pad, a new cap or an engraved paperweight, we are going to give them an opportunity to give to those in need.

This year, SLLF is taking a portion of the money that we would have spent on an in-person meeting and gifts to participants and dedicating that money to charity. However, instead of Steve and the rest of us deciding where that money should go, we are going to let those who join us for the Leadership Forum this Thursday make that decision. Once we have “gathered” and discussed what SLLF has been doing in 2020 and what we have planned for 2021, we are going to randomly assign each participant to a smaller group. Each of those groups will be charged with deciding how to distribute a $1,000 donation from SLLF to a charitable organization. 

I have to add a personal note regarding how we came up with this idea. My mother, who turned eighty in September, read last summer about someone who was turning eighty and instead of asking for gifts gave eighty different friends $80 each with instructions to give the money away and tell her what they did with it. Now my mom could not give away that much, but she did give $80 to twenty friends and the impact was amazing: the money has been shared with a kindergarten class for supplies, a waitress in need, a graduate student on a tight budget, to buy books for children in Kenya, to start a savings account for a great grandchild and to create and distribute bags of food, toiletries and McDonald’s gift cards for the homeless. Some who received the money from my mom added their own contribution as they helped others. Others who heard about the gifts decided to make donations on their own and some who received the gift also passed on gifts of their own!

And it was that action by my mother that inspired us. In discussing our Board Meeting and Winter Leadership Forum a few weeks ago, Papalinka Paradise, our Director of Communications, came up with the idea of doing something like my mom did. And so it came to be that instead of something else to sit on a shelf or wear or hang on a wall, we are giving our members something more valuable–an opportunity to help someone else.

From our SLLF home to yours, Happy Holidays!