‘Tis the Season (of Giving Back…)

No parties, no big holiday dinners where the bubbly keeps flowin’, no fancy outfits you had to frantically buy at the last minute, no Secret Santa gifts you have to purchase for some rando co-worker you don’t even like (that’s just a ‘for instance,’ I love everyone! *cough*), and it goes on and on…

If that list sounds familiar, then maybe you’re like me, in that maybe even after an unfathomable year that changed the world, it turns out that your ‘airing of the grievances’ during this year’s Festivus isn’t actually all that bad (come on, you watch Seinfeld don’t you? A Festivus for the rest of us!).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t highs and lows, and that doesn’t mean that on certain days it’s more than enough to simply get out of bed. Like you can literally still complain and be petty even if you’re really grateful. I mean I think you can still complain. I’m still waiting to find that out as I make my way through the bestselling book ‘Think Like a Monk‘ by Jay Shetty. Tell me Jay, can I look forward to a chapter entitled “How to Develop a Meditation Practice That Allows You to Still be a Petty Bitch Sometimes“? I really fucking hope so, Jay.

Until Jay gets back to us, in the Romi School of Philosophy you can:

1. Be a nice person and also make fun of things

2. Be more accepting while still being very unimpressed

3. Give something back to communities in need while still buying so many kinds of exfoliating masks that it would only be justifiable if you were an alien with a minimum of three different faces and three different skin types (dry, oily, and combination)

It’s true, I like exfoliating scrubs, sue me (the Darphin Paris one has these DIVINE exfoliating pearls…). Sometimes that’s just what a girl really needs to get through a ‘pandemic day,’ but I also know how extremely lucky I am to still be earning a pre-pandemic income. And so, with it being the season of giving, and with many of the usual December expenses not happening this year, why not do a little more giving than normal?

[Side note: if the exfoliating indulgence didn’t resonate with you, insert the most relevant alternative, like for example…hmm…a PS5? Yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot about the PS5, and if you want to buy yourself a PS5 right now to get through the rest of the year, you go girl! Although to be honest my ‘gaming’ allegiance will forever lie with Mario and Luigi and Toad and etc (yesterday I heard that they’re opening a Super Nintendo World theme park in Japan next year. Interesting, very interesting…I’ve never been to Japan…)

Okay…on to the giving!

Below you’ll find a list of some giving back ideas. These links may be more tailored to Canada (and to myself so I have a handy list to go back to throughout the month—oh what, you didn’t know this blog was my personal iPhone notes list?), but think of them as thought-starters to get you inspired for choosing causes and organization you care about!

Before I get to the list, let’s be real: there are SO many charities out there. It’s really overwhelming, right? And how much of my money is actually going to the cause? Am I lining the pockets of some shady CEO so he can line his stomach with a pile of shaved truffles on his omelet every morning? Is this an actual charity, or something on the level of a Nigerian prince that’s gonna send me a million dollars if I just send him all my bank account info?

I demand answers!

No matter what country you’re in, you can usually find out a lot about a charity with a little online research. I find Charity Intelligence Canada to be very handy in rating charities for financial transparency and how much of your dollar actually goes to the cause. My rule of thumb is to aim for at least 60 cents on every dollar, with administrative costs of 5% or less.

Okay, now to my handy list that is conveniently tailored to myself:

  1. Red Cross Canada. I’m starting with this one today because for ‘Giving Tuesday,’ your survival kit donation will be matched by SGI Canada! Why else? Well, Red Cross Canada is usually first on site to help out in emergencies both around the world and domestically, and that includes COVID-19 support where it’s most needed. And, 78 cents of every dollar you donate goes directly to the cause.
  2. The Daily Bread Food Bank Canada. What I like about this one is that it’s linked to over 130 local agencies across Canada, so if you’re struggling to narrow it down (it gets as specific as the neighbourhood sometimes), you can know that through Daily Bread, 77 cents of every dollar you donate will go directly to food supplies. With food banks being relied on a lot more during this pandemic, any food bank you can donate to would appreciate it!
  3. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading research centres. The centre is dedicated to suicide prevention, and I have to admit, I’ve been ignorant towards how essential it is to provide care and support upfront to prevent this tragic outcome (especially during a year as difficult as this one). I’ve been learning more through my best friend from high school who’s doing incredible work at the centre as a leading psychiatrist and researcher. From a donation standpoint, 84 cents of every dollar goes directly to the CAMH programs.
  4. Canada Helps. Over 23,000 charities in Canada are linked to Canada Helps, and donations make their way to organizations fast via weekly bank deposits. You can tailor your donation to a specific cause or charity, and by paying the admin fee yourself (between 3% and 5%), 100% of your donated amount will go directly to the charity!
  5. Restaurants, yo. There isn’t a website link for that (at least I don’t think so), but we’re 9 months into this pandemic now, and even with government subsidies, rent relief packages, and takeout and delivery service, your favourite restaurants could really use some help! If you’re like me and your takeout consumption isn’t as frequent as you’d like, because maybe home cooked food has been good for your soul or maybe you’re worried about backin’ that ass up into jogging pants that won’t fit anymore (because you’ve been eating too much takeout), fear not, there are other ways to help! First, check out some restaurant websites to see if they do gift cards directly. If so, buy a gift card and save it for later! Or better yet, don’t use it at all and consider it a donation to a restaurant you love! If your resto of choice doesn’t appear to sell gift cards, then maybe there’s a plucky startup in your city like The Neighbourgood, which is a completely non-profit platform that sets up a gift card option for local restaurants and small businesses. I noticed that Rosalinda Restaurant (amazing vegan Mexican food!) is on The Neighbourgood, so I will definitely be purchasing a gift card to help keep them going. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Like there is hope right now, we are turning a corner, so it’s more important than ever to lift up the restaurants we love (and the ones we hope to try some day), to help ensure that they’ll be around when we can frolic and dine once again!
  6. Entertainment, yo. Maybe you’re in New York and it’s Broadway, or maybe it’s your local improv or a ballet company or an independent movie theatre or a live music venue. Whatever you enjoy, the industry that brought you all those laughs, tears, and heart-clutching happiness needs your help! About a year ago I went to my first ever show at Second City Toronto. It was a comedy sketch show called “If I Could Throwback Time” and it was SO funny. We laughed and laughed and laughed and couldn’t stop raving about it after. I just noticed that the Second City Toronto website sells gift cards. Enough said.
  7. Other small businesses, yo. My usual routine of supporting small businesses used to revolve around strolling through a neighbourhood and making new discoveries one little shop at a time. That’s not as easy to do when it’s winter and various stages of lockdown are in place, but that doesn’t mean we can’t support the cause—we can support it even more, in fact! It only takes a little bit of Googling to discover small business options for products you may have normally bought at a chain store, or to find convenient services that curate a variety of products. One such small business curation service is Toronto Market Co. It’s a virtual market with almost a hundred local small business vendors; all you have to do is fill up your online cart and they’ll deliver your order right to your door! This website has made it easier than ever to get delectable cheese from a local creamery, or handmade soaps, or small batch ice cream, or that perfect tapenade for your Christmas charcuterie board, or cinnamon bun spread (I need that in my life), or handmade pop tarts (also need that in my life), or Ontario caramelized onion spread (what is that and I need it!), or margarita pizzas from your favourite Toronto pizzeria that are ready-to-bake at your convenience (OF COURSE I need that in my life!), or, or, or… Imagine supporting ten small businesses in a single order, well worth the flat delivery fee!

Well there you have it, some thought-starters (and hopefully some inspiration) on giving back this season (if you’re able to of course, no judgment!). It’s true that every individual contribution makes a difference, but imagine if we all gave a little bit more than we usually do in this all important season of giving. Imagine what a difference that would make! Maybe your heart won’t grow three sizes like the Grinch, but why does the Grinch get such positive PR anyway? He literally stole all the presents before he gave them back. And then he got invited to dinner? That’s bullshit. The Grinch is like a billionaire who doesn’t pay taxes but then every year, coughs up a paltry sum to the vague ‘environment’ or something.

But that’s a story for another day.

Merry Christmas!

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