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How Spending a Little Money on Others Can Transform Your Life

“I’ve felt as though I’ve regained a bit of control and am making some sort of small difference.”

Getty Images
Getty Images

For this Money Microstep Challenge series, we challenged Thrive staffers to test some financial Microsteps — small, science-backed actions you can start taking immediately to build habits that significantly improve your life — and write about their experiences. The result? Some very honest and encouraging reflections, like this one.

I’ve always believed in the power of giving back — and in particular, giving back with my time, one of the most valuable things we have. As an undergrad, I volunteered at a middle school tutoring students twice a week. Once I graduated, I made sure to make time for younger students from my alma mater, Howard University, to help them in whatever ways I could: connecting them to internships, reviewing their resumes, or simply offering to grab a coffee to chat about anything on their minds as they prepared themselves for the “real world.”

Present day, through my creative platform Kno., I’m working to uplift marginalized change makers and create space for us to tell our own stories the way they should be told. Giving in this way felt good — like I was doing the thing. Making some sort of small difference in the unique ways that I could. 

Then, 2020 happened. COVID-19 changed everything. Working from home in my small (but mighty) Brooklyn apartment was nice for a while, but life soon became monotonous. No trips, no rooftop brunches, no concerts, no coffee shop work sessions, no yoga classes. Nothing. New York was on pause. The world was standing still. 

Then, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. Followed by Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and countless others whose names we will unfortunately never know. I became numb. I mourned their deaths. I was outraged. Hopeless. 

But then, clarity came. I moved from this state of numbness to a moment where I knew exactly what I needed to do next, which was to explore the intersectionality of my privilege and oppression as a Black woman in America. And as a result of this personal exploration, I realized I need to translate my feelings into actions. I wanted and needed to do — and give — more.

But where would I start? As with all things in life, starting small — and building from there — is a great strategy if you don’t know where to begin. So in that spirit, I decided to try this Microstep:

If you’re working remotely, take a portion of funds you would normally spend on commuting and make a charitable contribution.
Giving reduces our stress levels, provides us with a deeper sense of meaning, and may also lower the risk of depression.

I’ve been practicing this Microstep for the last few weeks, donating to organizations that are combating racial and economic disparities and pushing forward social causes I care deeply about, including Brooklyn Community Bail Fund and The Okra Project. In making contributions, no matter the amount, I’ve felt as though I’ve regained a bit of control and am again making some sort of small difference.

I recognize that I’m fortunate enough to be able to give back monetarily, but I stand by the belief that donating time can be just as valuable. I’ve simply been working toward creating change within my own realm and what I am capable of at this moment, and would encourage anyone who wants to give back to do the same — whatever that looks like for you. 

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