The Gift of Generosity
by Troy Jackson
Springing from experiences of freedom and (re)education, it has been a custom for centuries in Judaism to give “gelt” (Yiddish for money) to children during the week of Hanukkah. Any good Nativity depicting the birth of Jesus in the Manger includes wise men bearing gifts. It is easy to see that today, the theme of generosity and gift giving continues as a part of the holiday season in America.
We can rightfully critique the rampant materialism and greed that often define the season between Thanksgiving and New Years. That said there is beauty in generosity, in caring enough about someone else to thoughtfully offer them gifts. Generosity is part of how we express the Godly concern for others in our families and in our communities.
One of the consequences of poverty level wages that mark so many occupations in this nation is that they rob people of their full capacity to be generous, which furthers the impact of their poverty.
The most obvious example of stifling generosity is the simple lack of financial resources to purchase even simple gifts for family members and loved ones. Even the ingredients to bake cookies for loved ones can be difficult for those living on the edge financially due to poverty level wages.
But perhaps the more insidious consequence of poverty level wages is the toll it takes on one’s energy and time. When people have to juggle multiple low-wage jobs to make ends meet while often dealing with the time consuming challenges of public transportation, having the energy to be generous is a real challenge. Poverty level jobs can rob people of their joy, their vibrancy, and their capacity to invest as fully as they would like in those they love the most.
This is no indictment of the spirit or overall goodness of so many who are trapped in poverty level jobs. Despite the odds, they struggle and share and love heroically day after day. And those who work these jobs, which include caregivers, early childhood workers, fast food workers, and retail jobs, are disproportionately women and women of color, doing all they can for their families.
In Cincinnati, we worked diligently over the past few years as part of a coalition called Preschool Promise, an effort to bring high quality preschool to children who need it most in our community. Additionally, we fought for a $15/hour wage floor for early childhood educators in both public and private settings who participate in Preschool Promise.
On November 8th, voters in Cincinnati passed a ballot initiative with over 62% of the vote to invest $15 million a year in high quality preschool education with good wages for preschool teachers.
This public commitment to children and their teachers will allow more workers in our community to make a good wage, making them more available to fully experience the blessing of generosity with those they love.
When our society values every worker, we become a more generous people. As we prepare for the next four years, may we not only protect vulnerable workers, but also struggle for good jobs and fair pay for all. May we embody a generosity as a nation that unleashes the generosity of every person.