Generosity Shouldn't Need A Season

By Scott Kriner, Green Metal Consulting

This month I'm deviating from my traditional column on technical or green topics. The holiday season and the end of another year got me thinking about some things that I wanted to share. The song tells us this is” The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. And despite the dark and broken world in which we live, we truly do have much to be happy about.

The metal construction industry is no different from all other construction-related industries in that they are working to make the built community better and to make our buildings more energy efficient, more attractive, and more sustainable for future generations. We have brilliant and creative people working in this industry to knock down barriers to growth and to promote the benefits of building with metal.  For the most part, these people like what they are doing. They make a living on this industry which allows them to put food on the table, send their kids to college, and squeeze in a vacation now and then.  But is that all we can do while we are on this planet for about eight decades?

Over the years, the metal construction industry has given back to charities, veterans, and a variety of local communities. Through the benevolent efforts of METALCON this industry has donated steel framed homes to wounded warriors, donated food through several Canstruction® events, raised money for breast cancer awareness, and most recently donated funding to the America’s Fund which directs resources and financial support to injured and critically ill members of the US Armed Forces and their families.  The metal construction industry has also helped with rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans parishes. We can all take pride in these and many other efforts to give back to those who have needs.

This type of generosity is all around us during this time of the year. We live in a nation of extreme dichotomy. We are the wealthiest nation on Earth and yet we are more miserable, as a population in general, than ever before. Despite the wealth of our nation we are surrounded by poverty, homelessness, and hunger at all ages.

Over the past few months, I’ve had first-hand experiences with generosity. While attending a conference in Washington DC I was confronted by a homeless woman outside of a Starbucks coffee shop. She had just turned 48 and was asking for some cash.  I shared what little cash I had in my wallet and her face lit up like a candle with a smile from ear to ear. It made me feel good as well. A few weeks later I was listening to Christmas music while going through a Dunkin’ Donuts drive through. The music put me in the giving spirit so I paid for the coffee order from the car behind me. It made me feel good. But not all of my generosity takes place near coffee shops.  Over the Christmas shopping season I visited WalMart one day. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw and heard the bells ringing at the Salvation Army kettle in front of the entrance. As I mentioned earlier, I rarely carry much cash with me. That day was no different, but I did have plenty of coins in the seats of my car. I deposited them into the kettle and it felt good.

So giving generously makes us feel good, right?  Then why do we seem to think about generosity only during the holiday season?  A study by the Center on Philanthropy (COP) at Indiana University found that most respondents reported giving about 24 percent of their annual charitable contributions between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. A more recent COP study focused on high–net worth donors (defined as households with income greater than $200,000 and net worth over $1,000,000) and found that about 43 percent of that social class gave more during the holidays than the rest of the year.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, giving by individuals makes up the vast majority of contributions received by nonprofit organizations throughout the year.  Those people at either the high end or low end of the income distribution tend to give a higher percentage of their income as contributions than those in the middle bracket. The Center states that those with income between $100,000 and $200,000 contribute, on average, 2.6 percent of their income, but those with income either below $100,000 or above$200,000 contribute more than 3 percent.

The Giving USA Foundation released their report on generosity in the USA in 2014. The report showed that American philanthropy is growing stronger and reaching new highs. In 2014, Americans surpassed the peak--last seen before the Great Recession--giving an estimated $358 billion to charity - a 5.4 percent increase from the prior year.

We can all be thankful for the gifts each and every one of us have.   Those gifts should be shared with those who are not so lucky. Gifts come in forms other than financial contributions, such as our time and our talent.  Generosity is a way to help someone get through a rough patch, or spreading cheer at a hospital or nursing home or helping at a local soup kitchen.  We don’t do these things because we have to, but it makes us feel better.

My wish to all of you is that your new year will be wonderful, prosperous, and generous.  We can’t change the entire world single-handedly, but we can all claim a small corner of the world and make a difference in this dark and broken world.

Scott Kriner is the president and founder of Green Metal Consulting Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional who began his career in the metal construction industry in 1981. His company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Association of Building Energy Consultants and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

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