Dear Friends of ACT:

Mark Hassemer

A couple of weeks ago, one of ACT’s Direct Support Professionals (DSP) came to my office and asked how many employees we have. This remarkably generous person had received a financial benefit as a result of a life event that would surely sadden each of us had it happened to us. But this person wanted to share it with everyone on our staff.

Our big-hearted friend was neither depressed nor sad about the circumstances; instead, there was excitement and happiness about sharing the news of this decision with me.

I won’t describe the family circumstances because it might betray some cherished anonymity. But I can say that the responsibility for earning a living and providing for family has not suddenly evaporated just because the end of year holidays are upon us.

Like most DSPs at ACT, this person earns less than $24,000 a year. But this DSP is always cheerful, always happy, and always doing what only happy people do. I’ll let you imagine for yourself what those things might be.

I didn’t know what to say. I was overwhelmed by the offer. Then I simply said that ACT was in a fortunate position this year to give every employee a bonus at the end of year holiday party. “Okay. That’s good,” came the reply.

After that conversation, I sat and thought a lot about my own giving, and why I do it. I’m honestly not sure how often I give with a cheerful heart, as was exemplified by this tremendously selfless offer.

I saw the person again later. I said, for now, it would probably be best to keep the money, in case it is needed later. The response was a shrug and a smile.

Right now, I don’t know where that money will go. But I doubt it will stay put in the pocket of the person who probably needs it most.

Generosity on this scale is confusing, unsettling. Where does it come from? What motivates this kind of selfless giving? I’m not sure.

But I think it’s a good story to share at this time of year. Our days are short and cold. We bundle up and run from our cars to our houses to avoid the chill. It’s as easy to slip on the ice as it is to slip into isolation, depression, and loneliness.

The tradition at Christmas is giving gifts. The spirit of giving warms and elevates each of us…if done as intended, not out of obligation, but generosity.

Giving generously sends a very strong message to one’s subconscious mind: I have enough and everything will work out in the end. The miser Scrooge, we know, was miserable in his stinginess. He had plenty to give and was happy in the end that he did.

Many of the people we support at ACT have needs. Usually it’s the basics like clothes, kitchen tools, help with dental care, transportation, or other ordinary things that fall between the cracks and are left unattended.

Each December we participate in CoMoGives, a month-long campaign to raise money for over 90 organizations in Central Missouri. It’s an online campaign organized by the Community Foundation of Central Missouri. If you’re inspired by the generosity of our staff member, I hope you’ll consider digging deeper this year to make a contribution that benefits one of the people we serve. You can do it here: www.comogives.com/product/alternative-community-training-act/

I don’t think I measure up to the example I’ve shared. But my co-worker’s willingness to act as if he or she has plenty to offer has inspired me to see that I have plenty, too. I’ve been shown how to give with a cheerful heart. What a gift!

Until next month,

Mark