A Culture Of Giving

Ben Eriksen Carey Words 2 Comments

Giving thanks… Thanksgiving. Two distinct and powerful words rolled into one so we can get through it faster and get on with the Christmas Shopping Season. Onto Black Friday. Then onto Cyber Monday. But wait, what’s this, now it’s back to that word Giving… on Tuesday – an attempt to make up for the past days’ consumption gluttony by giving, not buying. It’s a roller coaster of pocketbook draining days.

Stop! So much negativity.

Let me step back, to an autumn Sunday afternoon after church, in the living room with dad engulfed in the New York Times,  while mother bakes and sings along with the Metropolitan Opera on WQXR. As I let myself melt into those heart warming memories, I can’t help but realize there’s so much to be grateful for. My parents were exceptionally good at giving thanks and role modeling gratitude. They gave so much that they created a culture of giving in our house, and our world.

One way they gave was by supporting many organizations. One of them was WQXR, that public radio station in NY. I’m listening to the opera right now as I write… streaming of course. Faust, from the Royal opera House. It’s one I’ve heard many times. I’m in a loop of ThanksWonder… thank you mom and dad for giving me the appreciation of opera. Thank you for recognizing the importance of, and supporting public radio so that I can listen today and be that much closer to you again, so that I can thank you for sharing opera with me… (encore). I wonder if they ever thought I’d like opera. I certainly didn’t appreciate it much as a kid. But despite my complaints Mom, your persistence nurtured a beautiful late blooming flower of appreciation.


How can I pay it forward? How can I give thanks, and support the arts like my parents did? I’m not a wealthy man, and neither were my parents for that matter, but the culture of giving they lived inspired me. Yet another example of their endless giving!

Now, with all the crowd-finding websites like Kickstarter, Patreon, and even one called Giveforward, it’s never been easier to support a cause. I’d say there’s a bit of a digital renaissance going on even.

Teresa and I have funded several projects recently, and continue to do so regularly. It’s something we understand intimately, having been on both sides of the donation button. And thanks to many of you, it’s a true pay it forward moment every time we hit “donate”, and that feels great.

It’s easy to recall just about every project or cause which I’ve supported. In contrast, that $10 or $20 dinner I ate is long gone from memory and it’s usefulness, well that’s gone right down the toilet.

Although I’m doing my best to foster a community of giving, I recognize there’s a group of people not interested in joining. The desire to keep their hard earned money is understandable. But I believe they’re missing an opportunity to be part of something special. Something greater then the latest technology, toy craze or style trend.


I think it’s hard to ask for financial support, even as we humbly embark on a new journey of ocean conservation. There is a certain stigma associated with asking. In our case it’s often perceived as begging or worse, just looking for a free ride.  But on a grander scale — there is even a stigma toward asking for donations to end hunger, or build shelter for the homeless.

As I sit here listening to this glorious opera, I’m envisioning an enlightened new world where people ask and give freely in a culture of giving, where the phrase “what do I get in return” doesn’t exist. It’s an advanced world of gratitude, full of forward paying gifts, full of philanthropy. Instead of just a season of giving, let us reside in a culture of giving.

The giving culture is upon us, and here are a few giving avenues you might consider:

Patreon Projects: When I look, there’s always something worth funding that tugs at my heart strings. It’s a chance to be a modern day patron saint of the arts.

Boat Donation: I know there are a few sailors out there reading this blog, and I wonder if there are any who might have a boat that could be donated. Our local YMCA has an annual boat auction that raises a ton of money each year.

Public Radio: Support your local public radio station! It makes the programming that much better knowing you helped put it out there. Plus, Mom & Dad would approve.

Ocean Conservation: Yes, we love the ocean, you probably do too. Our oceans aren’t in great shape. There are lots of conservation groups out there doing good work. We are now one of them. But we’d be happy to make some suggestions. Maybe that will be the topic of another post.

Giveforward: This site focuses on supporting friends and loved ones in need, typically medical.


Comments 2

  1. Pamela

    Wonderful post. I’m happy to see your emphasis on giving back.

    As my husband and I prepare to start cruising next year, we frequently talk about how we’ll give back in our new life.

    Lots of cruisers talk about the freedom of living their dream. But what good is freedom if you only use it to satisfy your own whims.

  2. Martina Tyrrell

    Great blog, and a timely reminder of what this season should be all about. Alas, most people are too caught up in a different sort of giving – of expensive gifts that will be forgotten in a week – to think about the giving that really matters. I’ve written about this in my own blog.

    I’m writing, however, to respond to Pamela. We’re cruisers too, and I tend to turn the question of how we contribute to society on its head. I think about what we DON’T contribute to society. By necessity and choice, we live frugally. And so we contribute very little to the social inequality and environmental degradation at the heart of consumer capitalism. While we have little to give financially to make things better in the world, by our lifestyle choices we are not making things any worse. Instead, we ‘give back’ (if that’s what you want to call it) in small ways – helping out our sailing neighbours, sharing our time, tools and skills, and engaging with the people meet (sailors and local people) with kindness and openness.

    We home educate our two daughters, and I believe that our biggest contribution to society is raising our girls to be thoughtful, compassionate, caring adults. (We’re currently in a marina for a few months, and only this morning the girls devised a list of all the people we’re going to share our Christmas baking with – everyone from our cruising neighbours to the marina maintenance guys). The baking will be fun for my family and it will put a smile on the faces (and a few pounds on the hips) of the people we meet every day. To me, that’s what this giving season should be about.


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