GivingTuesday: start a new tradition

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This week, families will gather together to give thanks – a time to be grateful for all we have, including an appreciation for those who join us around the table for a wonderfully prepared meal.

Then Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday will follow, officially kicking off the holiday shopping frenzy. As we enter into this season of thankfulness, let’s add another “to do” to our holiday list – giving back.

On Dec. 2, people around the world will celebrate the third annual GivingTuesday (#GivingTuesday), a global day dedicated to giving back. The day was founded by New York’s 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation with one common purpose: to give back.

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At Northwestern Mutual, giving is not just something we do; it is part of our DNA. Through our foundation, our mission is to improve the lives of area children and families through financial support, volunteerism, thought leadership and collaboration with community partners. This strong spirit of giving is echoed by our employees. In 2013 alone, more than 1,800 employees donated a total of 26,000 volunteer hours. But it doesn’t require a company or an investment of millions of dollars to make a difference; it’s the cumulative efforts of individuals that change lives.

I encourage you to share the idea of GivingTuesday with your friends and family. There are so many ways to take our own gratitude and, with no one asking, turn it into a gift. Let me give you some examples:

• Purchase something at a drive-thru or grocery store counter for the next person in line.
• Volunteer at a local shelter.
• Share a talent you have at a retirement home.
• Smile and say hello to a stranger in an elevator.

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Giving is easy and your participation can be 100 percent spontaneous and carried out on your own; or you can get a group together and create a plan to have fun and at the same time make a difference.

Your gesture may touch someone at the most unexpected and needed time in his or her life. Who knows, maybe this year you and your friends will start another holiday tradition that you’ll carry with you all year-round.

I’m left to wonder what a difference it could make if through our help we gave someone hope or something to smile about. What if on GivingTuesday each of us performed one act of kindness throughout this great city? Let your season be filled with the gift of giving!

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John Kordsmeier is president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

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