by Angie Vuyst

Learning to differentiate between giving out of guilt and giving from my gut has become the most important part of why I give.

It’s Giving Tuesday.

Founded in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y (a cultural center in New York City) in partnership with the United Nations Foundation.

And if you read the news or frequent your social media pages today, you’ll be bombarded with organizations and articles about giving.

In no way am I implying that these causes are trying to guilt you in to giving, I believe that most of their intentions are good. How would we know about them unless they put themselves out there?

I live in NYC where you can’t walk more than a few blocks without seeing someone in need, someone on the street with a cardboard sign, a homeless shelter, a food pantry, someone on the subway asking for money. 

My mom came to visit over Thanksgiving and commented on the obvious wealth inequality here. In a city of over 8 million people, the disparity is massive. She asked, how do you decide who to give to, how to give, and what to give?

I’ve been here for three years so it takes effort to really notice the disparity. I see so much of it that it’s easy to become callous. 

How I respond is simple, I follow my gut

I’m not here to #humblebrag and talk about the times I’ve stopped to help someone, give money, etc. Quite frankly, it’s none of your business. The point is, I try to do whatever it is that little nudge, that little twinge is prompting me to do.

I’m not just talking about giving money, while that is important, one of the greatest gifts we can give is time.

There is a team of dedicated volunteers at my church who get up early every Sunday to brew coffee. They’re serving members of my church, and they’re showing kindness to some who don’t experience much love. 

They’re also changing the lives of people in Rwanda. 

Each week my church orders coffee from Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co., an organization that partners with farmers and local community leaders to develop the coffee into a sustainable income, pay a just Living Wage, and strive to further meet the needs of the people.

Another way to give is by fundraising.

Last month, 14 individuals ran the NYC Marathon to benefit Restore NYC. 
Restore’s mission is to end sex trafficking in New York and restore the well-being and independence of foreign national survivors. 

The runners battled everything from colds to leg cramps to headaches to warmer than expected weather.
But when we asked each of them to describe their 2015 NYC Marathon experience in one word, the overwhelming response was "rewarding!" or "inspirational!"

The 2015 #RunToRestore team completed the NYC Marathon, and raised over $60,000 dollars - enough to provide 10 months of safe, secure, beautiful housing for up to 11 women.

Sometimes I feel nothing, but when I do feel that nudge, I follow my gut for two reasons:

1. My “second brain.” Our stomachs, our guts, are lined with neurons that closely communicate with the brain in our skulls.

“If you’ve ever ‘gone with your gut’ to make a decision or felt ‘butterflies in your stomach’ when nervous, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source: your second brain. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this ‘brain in your gut’ is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.” Read more about the brain-gut connection from John Hopkins Medicine.

2. My beliefs. I’ve written about this before because I’m a big believer in the types of ripples we create in this world. We’re either pushing forward good, bad, or indifference. 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ― Jesus

Giving changes us. It makes us a happier and more empathetic people. 

Following my gut helps me decide where to put my “treasure.” Where I put my money and spend my time then changes me.

Of course, I could choose to do nothing. And if I’m perfectly honest, there are many times I do choose to do nothing, or I choose myself over others.

But I try to follow that nudge, that feeling in my second brain.

I encourage you to follow your gut. Find something that leaves you feeling inspired. Listen to someones story, throw a few bucks in to the bell ringers bucket, give some food to the person on the street, or click on that article or organization that nudges you a bit. If you want to confirm an organization is a credible 501c3 this is a good place to start: Charity Navigator.

Leave a comment, I’d love to know what’s nudged your gut.

Or maybe one of these organizations/causes will nudge you as they did me. 

  • Restore NYC (check out their #WeForHer campaign going on now): Restore's mission is to end sex-trafficking in New York and restore the well-being and independence of foreign national survivors.
  • NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
  • The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan: In order to ensure every individual is supported in their journey to a full, healthy life, they educate and build awareness throughout the community about suicide prevention and other challenges to good mental health. 
  • Charity Water: 663 million people live without clean water. Their mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
  • African Dream Initiative: ADI gives promising but disadvantaged children the resources to become Africa’s future leaders. They provide quality education and help them build the skills they need to make their communities places where dreams can come true.
  • Umama: strives to empower Ugandan mothers and their families economically, socially, and spiritually by providing financial services and training.
  • Forefront: "Our vision is to see lives, neighborhoods, and our city renewed through Jesus."