Becca Lory delves deeper into the autism empathy myth and her weakness for “Giving Tuesday.”
It’s giving season. I can tell by my inbox. As somebody who has always been more of a giver than a taker, this season isn’t new to me. Around mid-October, just after the back-to-school season has become the murmur of routine, non-profits and retailers alike begin to organize for the holiday season. Each year the email onslaught begins as our pharmacies and banks break out the holiday decorations. Over the years, I’ve become numb to so-called “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday”, and “Cyber Monday” steals and deals trying to get you to spend what you haven’t yet earned. But this season is not without it’s pitfalls for me in the budget department. I have a weakness, “Giving Tuesday”.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, most autistics do not lack empathy.
There exists an autism empathy myth…We may misunderstand your signals and we may have trouble processing your words, but we can still feel. In fact, some us believe that autistics actually have too much empathy, it’s called the “intense world” theory of autism. That the world is actually giving our brains too much too fast to process. We also don’t weed out the unnecessary “white noise” information very well. In other words, we are like sponges and take in everything. When that tsunami of emails besieges my inbox asking me to join walks, wear colors, and give, give, give because people need, need, need, I do. I cannot imagine ignoring anyone in need. Not give, not to help, just simply feels wrong.
I have recently started a new lifestyle plan centered around the idea of gratitude.
This is not a new idea. I am not the first, nor will I be the last. I bring this up because this is my first giving season with my new-found perspective. It is also my first year as an entrepreneur. That means that while budgets are tighter this year, I have a ton to be grateful for. Needless to say, it has been unusually challenging this year to receive the usual emails. I decided I needed a plan of action to handle my overwhelming desire to give. In previous years, I have given smaller amounts to multiple causes, not just in giving season, but throughout the year.
It is my belief and practice that if I give of myself, I am an example to others to also give of themselves.
How could I ensure that this year I could keep my principles intact while staying on a year one budget? And then it hit me, time.
Another widely held belief I ascribe to is that there is nothing more valuable than time. We have a limited amount of it, nobody knows exactly how much, so how you chose to spend that time is extremely valuable. The direct result of that line of thinking is that when someone gives you their time, they are giving you their most valuable asset. A small portion of an unknown quantity of their only non-renewable resource. That is one valuable minute you just gave me reading that sentence, for which I am very grateful.
Since your time is your most precious commodity, it follows that if you were to give it away, to say a non-profit that supports a cause close to you, that would indeed be a very generous donation.
I began to collect ideas for how to donate time.
I could volunteer at my local no-kill animal shelter and walk some dogs this season. I could visit a nursing home and spend time with wise folk that are without their tribe this year. I could help staff a walk to support a cause close to my heart. But these were all ideas that take a lot of spoons. I can do them, some of them, but not all of them. There had to be more ways to give that don’t eat into my budget or my spoons. I knew the answer would lie where almost all answers do these days, in the hivemind of the interweb. I spent some time looking for ideas and sure enough, I found a few. I could use my Facebook feed to support fundraisers or events that support my causes. I could write blog pieces, like this one, that encourage others to donate their time this season. I can use my voice to champion causes that may not get heard very often and get them out in the spotlight. I can send out emails and forward on invites. I can encourage creativity.
This year I have made it to December, past the midway point that is Giving Tuesday, almost to the finish line that is Christmas.
I have tried new things, with success and failure. I have found new causes and left others. I have done it all with a smaller budget but bigger ideas. I don’t feel like I didn’t do enough. In fact, I feel like I did more. I made choices with intention about this season and I learned that time means more to me than any dollar sign. I must be very choosy about who I give it away to, in giving season, and every season.
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