Giving doesn’t have an expiration date. It doesn’t come in seasons, and there’s no specific time of year when it’s best to give — even if the winter holidays seem to be the most common time for sharing one’s wealth.
That’s the message Cami Walker intends to spread with the 29-Day Giving Challenge, a program that dares participants to spend nearly a month giving something each day. Walker said she started her mission with the realization that in order to revive the spirit of giving, she had to reach out to people. When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she said, she almost lost faith entirely.
“I couldn’t fathom giving to others at that point,” she said. “I was very attached to my struggle and really believed that I had nothing to give anyone.”
Her spiritual teacher Mbali Creazzo suggested she give away 29 things in 29 days to help her through her illness.
“I thought the suggestion was crazy at first, but decided it wasn’t going to hurt me to try it — things couldn’t get much worse,” Walker said.
Just by taking up the challenge, Walker said she was shocked at how quickly her life and health began to improve.
She documented her daily observations and what she gave away by posting stories online. She then decided to invite some friends to join her. Within a week, 120 people signed up.
To participate in the challenge, visitors first fill out a profile about themselves on
29gifts.org similar to those on other social networks like MySpace or Facebook. The difference is what they do next: give away 29 gifts in 29 days.
The gifts don’t need to have monetary value. They can be as simple as a kind word or a poem. Participants can post a story, an original piece of artwork, a movie or a song if they choose. Afterward, users are prompted to share how the project has changed their life. The idea is to make selflessness part of one’s everyday routine.
Rebecca Drew, a Pennsylvania native and a member of the U.S. Air Force, was referred to the site by a friend last year. Drew is on her second round of the challenge and said it has been a rewarding experience for her from the start.
“I have gotten more love, friends, boosts in self-esteem and blessings beyond any I ever imagined,” Drew said.
Though members of the site feel a sense of self-enrichment, Jessica Merrick, a sociology graduate student, said the focus of giving should be enriching others’ lives.
“(29 Gifts) is amusingly voyeuristic. While it is counterproductive to criticize the motives of gift-giving, it does seem to negate the assumed altruism the idea is based on,” she said.
However, Walker said that even if those posting on the site are seeking to benefit their well-being, it is a good thing for those involved any way you look at it.
“Seeing the psychic shift that has happened in my own thinking has been profound,” Walker said. “This change in thinking has resulted in better health and more joy for life for me.”
She said it’s incredible to read the stories of members who have experienced a similar change in their lives, and she hopes the challenge will continue to grow.
“We would love to be the largest kindness movement on the planet and become a model for how every day, people can come together to combine creativity and collaboration to be a powerful force for good in the world.”