Updated: Jul 30, 2021
Twenty dollars can make a difference.
I’ve heard it before. Deep down, I do believe this is true, and I find it very encouraging. And yet, when it comes to me actually giving twenty dollars, I never feel like it’s enough. There are so many needs in the world. I can easily get overwhelmed and feel like I have to solve them all, all by myself.
In 2020, my friend’s dad died, and I coordinated a group gift for her. I wanted to get her something tangible she could hold, as a reminder that she is never alone, that there are many people who love and support her in the midst of this grief and the hard seasons of life.
I reached out to ten or fifteen mutual friends and said, “Hey, I'm organizing this gift. If you want to give money, any amount is great. No amount is too small.” In the moment of writing it, I meant it. I knew deep down that however much money I collected would be exactly what I needed to provide love and support for my friend.
The ten or fifteen people I emailed forwarded the opportunity on to other friends. Some people gave $5, some people gave $7. I think maybe one person gave $100, but most people gave $20-25.
Within a matter of days, I had plenty of money to buy a meaningful gift for my friend. I had so much extra, I was able to get her gift cards for groceries and restaurants, to provide for her while she was dealing with funeral arrangements under the fog of grief.
I had a front row seat to the proof that every little bit counts, that a $20—or $7— donation makes a difference.
And yet …
Two months ago, my husband and I set aside $100 to give to charity. Without hesitation, I threw out the name of an organization. My husband pushed back, “What if we broke it up into $20 portions and gave to five different charities?”
The perfect opportunity to apply my recently illustrated lesson.
As I started putting together a list of charities, I found myself wanting to give each charity the full $100. If I were to do that, I would need $500, which I didn’t have.
My computer sat with charity websites open to “donate” pages, and it took me a couple days to schedule the actual transactions. Every time I looked at a donation page, I felt like I wasn't doing enough. I wasn't giving enough. I wasn't supporting with enough. What was twenty dollars going to help them accomplish?
Finally, I forced myself to act. The money wasn’t helping anyone just sitting in my account. Plus, just because I “only” give $20 right now doesn't mean I can't give another $20 next month, or three months from now, or whatever.
So I made the donations: $20 to five different charities, and honestly, once it was done, I didn't feel great. I didn't feel terrible. It was just done and no longer on my mind.
A week later, I got a card in the mail from one of the organizations. A thank you card. A personalized, handwritten thank you card. For my $20 donation. “Thank you so much for your recent donation. We’re so thankful to have you as part of the family.”
I was in absolute disbelief that someone would take the time, effort, and energy to hand-write a thank you card for $20. After I had struggled so much, I was touched to know that my donation mattered enough to warrant a response.
My husband and I have both been personally impacted by this specific organization, as have several friends of ours. I know, deep down, that if every single person who has been affected by them gave just $20, they'd be set.
So I am actively challenging myself to press into this notion that giving, even a little, matters.
I’m reminding myself that giving $20 can and will make a difference. If I give my $20, and you give yours and someone else gives theirs, eventually that becomes $100, then $1,000, then $10,000.
It's not up to just one person to save the world, which is how I often feel. It is the cumulative whole, everyone working together, that makes a real impact.
Saving the world isn’t completely on my shoulders. It really is up to all of us, and when we each show up and give our little bit, it adds up to make a big difference.