The Generosity Project

Last Christmas season, I thought it would be nice to try out a little mini-project that had been percolating in my brain for a few years. Unfortunately, I got a late start on my idea and it never really had the chance to get rolling. Well this year, I have given myself and any other participants plenty of lead time, and I’d like to ask you again if you would consider being involved.

The idea is pretty simple: as you’re out and about this Christmas season, look for some opportunities to show some unexpected generosity to a stranger. It can be as simple as buying coffee for the next person in line or it can be something more significant like having your kids pick another family at the restaurant where you’re having dinner and paying their bill. Perhaps you could leave a jar of homemade spiced tea mix (a Gray family specialty) and leave it on your neighbor’s doorstep. The opportunities are endless.

Then, in order to keep the ball rolling, I have made a business card-sized note that you can pass along to the recipient of your generosity in hopes of inspiring them to do the same for others. I’ve also included a link back to this post where givers and recipients alike can tell the story of their involvement in The Generosity Project. How exciting to read the different ways that people choose to be generous this Christmas.

So what do you think? Are you in?

If so, you can download and print the Generosity Project card, or if you are interested in playing a bigger role, contact me directly and I can mail you up to 10 of the custom cards I printed up (if you would like more, please specify a quantity in your email). These are thick, high quality cards, and I will mail them to you for free. Please note that I will be mailing these cards on the week of November 18 so that you can have them in time for Black Friday shopping.

Also, don’t forget to tell your story by leaving a message on our Facebook page.



Even though your five year old vision of Christmas is Santa bringing you that telescope you asked him for and getting to go sledding at Grandma’s, I hope you grow each year to see that the Christmas spirit really is more about giving than getting. The world has commercialized Christmas, and on some levels I have no problem with that, but if you let the “things” of Christmas overshadow the meaning, then no amount of presents under the tree will bring you the joy that Christmas should bring. Show gratitude by being generous.

What “Bruce Wayne” Taught Me About Generosity

Some people in this world make insane amounts of money, but billionaire industrialist and Gotham City playboy Bruce Wayne takes personal income to unimaginable levels of insane. Wayne is filthy rich, to be sure, but there is a side of Mr. Wayne and his globally-dominant Wayne Industries that many people do not see: The Wayne Foundation, his generous philanthropy organization. I got to tour the Phoenix offices of Wayne Industries this week, and I am going to leak a few very interesting secrets about the legendary Bruce Wayne (SPOLIER: Bruce Wayne is merely a secret identity for a well-known superhero).

wayne
Harrison’s friend, Nadia, was recently invited to visit the offices of Wayne Industries in celebration of her successful battle against Leukemia. We came as her guests. During our tour of Mr. Wayne’s study, Nadia accidentally bumped into a copper bust of Shakespeare and revealed a secret button hidden under the head of the famed playwright. Being the curious child she is, she pushed the button and a bookshelf on the wall mysteriously slid open to reveal a secret passage.

Ever since I was a kid I have known that, when a hidden bookshelf opens to reveal a secret passage, you must walk through it to investigate. Well we did. The classic, victorian-style walls of Wayne’s study turned to sleek, metal walls as we walked up the stairs at the end of the secret passage. At the top of the stairs, we came to two fireman poles. Above the poles was a sign that read (get ready to be blown away) “Access to the BATCAVE via the batpoles”. Batman’s secret lair is behind a bookshelf at Wayne Industries? I think I just blew Batman’s identity wide open.

After Harrison and I slid down the batpoles, we were standing in a dark cave decked out with high-tech computers, a small nuclear reactor, and various state-of-the-art crime-fighting tools. Nadia flipped the reactor switch and the Batcave rumbled to life. As the lights powered up, they revealed the legendary Batmobile at the far end of the cave. That’s right, the Batmobile. Now there can be no doubt about Batman’s real identity.

But seriously…

Gotham City Motors in Phoenix, Arizona is the brainchild of Mr. Charles Keller, a former Apple Computers “whiz-kid” who put his hard-earned money to good work, helping families with sick kids by offering them a fun escape from their fight against disease. Mr. Keller has turned part of an industrial park near Sky Harbor airport into Batman’s top-secret and elusive Batcave. Kids who are battling serious diseases get the royal treatment from Bruce Wayne’s staff (Mr. Wayne always seems to be away on “vacation”).

batcave1

I love generosity, and Mr. Keller seems to love it too. In addition to spending a lot of money to recreate Bruce Wayne’s study and the Batcave, Mr. Keller has gone all-out to have an authentic classic 1960′s Batmobile. But simply having a Batmobile isn’t terribly generous in itself. One of the things I was most impressed with was that Mr. Keller didn’t just use his Batmobile as a prop for the Batcave, he actually pulls it out and allows kids to go for a ride. What’s more, he doesn’t insist that only he gets to be behind the wheel, he lets his adult guests drive their own kids around the complex. That takes trust — and it makes a world of difference in creating a memorable experience.

batcave2

batcave3

The thing I liked best, however, is how Mr. Keller ends the tour. Instead of just giving sick kids the joy of visiting the Batcave and then sending them on their way, he talks about how generosity is something that should be shared. A “Pay it Forward” sort of speech. Each child who is hosted on the tour, gets to end the tour with the opportunity of donating $1,000 to the charity of his/her choice. Sure, the donation comes from Keller’s pocket, but he presents it in such a way that it comes from the child. His goal is to remind kids that giving should be a key part of getting. I love that.

Many young people today are taught that wealthy people are to be despised and protested against, just because they have more than others. But having more is not wrong, in fact it is a chance to give back in ways that others could never give. And you don’t have to be rich to be generous (I would guess that the volunteers who were there that night are not extremely wealthy). If we could all look for ways to be generous at our own level of capability, then the world would be a much more caring place.

Do you know of a seriously sick kid in the Phoenix area who could use a little pick-me-up? Contact Mr. Wayne and tell him why.



I had a blast with you at the Batcave. I hope that when you look back on this experience, you remember that this was all made possible by someone who decided to use his money for the benefit of others, not just himself. Whether you are wealthy as an adult or not, I hope you will look for ways to use what you have to bless others. Live outside of yourself, and learn the valuable lesson that giving is a key part in getting.

How Do You Avoid Becoming a Workaholic?

Some of the jobs I have held over the years have been downright awful. I remember working one summer during college at a factory that manufactured those hard-shelled briefcases (like the ones James Bond would carry). Every day I woke up early, drove downtown, did 8 hours of manual labor at minimum wage, bought my lunch from a dirty taco truck, and listened to my supervisor try to fit as many vulgar terms for female body parts into one sentence as he could — and he was proficient, let me tell you.

Menial jobs like that one suffocated me because I never felt a passion for hauling briefcase parts from one part of the factory to another for weeks on end. I wanted a job I loved — one that I was passionate about. Oddly enough, I have learned that having a job I love can be even more draining than any of the jobs I hated.

Work

I love the work I do now, I really do. It gives me a chance to be creative, to learn new things, and to meet new people. I was just hired on at my company full time on April 1st. Before that, for the past two and a half years, I worked from home as a freelance designer and video editor. It was nice being home all the time, but the inconsistent stream of work was making it hard to make a living.

Now, I’m in an office — and I’m here a lot (3:00 am as I write this). The work I do is fun. So fun that I lose track of how much time has gone by while I’m working. The work is also time consuming with a lot of imminent deadlines, which sometimes require me to put in some long days. None of this would be a problem except for the fact that I have a wife and son (and a daughter on the way) at home. When I work long hours, I don’t get to see them.

I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to mindful of maintaining a proper balance in my life. I love my job and I’m good at it; But I also love my family, and have a commitment to being there for them as well.

If you’ve been or currently are in this situation, I’d love to hear any tips for how you manage the balance between work and family. How have you been able to stay dedicated to your job and not neglect the ones you love the most? I want to do the best I can for my employer and for my family. How do I do both?

If you have any sage advice for me, please leave a comment below.



I miss you, buddy. When Mom tells me your bedtime prayer is for me to work fast and get home quickly, it breaks my heart. But work is a responsibility, a necessity, and a privilege. As you grow older, I pray that you will take pride in your career, in providing for your family. Busy seasons come and go, and sometimes that means sacrificing and learning how to balance. Whatever happens, make sure you make time to be with your family.

Thoughts on Getting Married Young

I have often thought about how drastically the process of getting married has changed from when my grandparents were young. For one thing, the time between boy-and-girl-meet and boy-and-girl-marry was much shorter than it is today. Back then, it was relatively common for a courtship to last only a few months. Now it seems commonplace for couples to be engaged for years on end. Many people would say that delaying marriage is a good thing, but I am convinced otherwise.

married-young

I recently read a thought-provoking article from The Atlantic called “The Case for Getting Married Young” by Karen Swallow Prior. In it, she details how the modern trend of delaying marriage may not be as optimal for marital health and satisfaction as some might think. She argues that “it can be beneficial to make marriage the cornerstone, rather than the capstone, of your adult life.” I won’t rehash her article here — please take some time to read it for yourself — but it did make me think about how much marriage has changed in two generations, and it made me wonder how it may change even further for Harrison’s generation.

Heidi and I met and began dating in college when I was a sophomore and she was a freshman. We dated for two years and were engaged for one. At the time, I remember so many older adults warning us about the pitfalls of getting married too young. “You’re still so young,” they would say “You don’t need to rush into marriage.” While I looked at our three years together as plenty of time to make a sound decision on marriage, others seemed to think that was not nearly enough time.

Apparently, that pressure to wait is becoming even more pervasive in society. According the Pryor’s article, today’s average age for a first marriage is 29 for men and 27 for women. Compare that to my grandparents’ generation, and no one can deny a seismic shift has occurred in the marriage culture. People often say that getting married young is a recipe for divorce, but the divorce rate has increased right along with the pendulum swing away from young marriage. To me, that is an indication that postponing marriage is more a recipe for divorce and unhappiness (as Pryor’s article also suggests).

From a religious standpoint, this first-marriage statistic is especially problematic. Though it has largely become prudish and old-fashioned for modern society, I still believe in the biblical value of waiting until marriage before having sex. But with puberty arriving sooner than ever and people getting married later in life, the window for abstinence seems impossibly wide. Think about it, my son will likely hit puberty at 13 or 14; if he waits until 29 to get married, he will have to fight the tide of raging testosterone for 15 or 16 years. That is brutal, and it’s a battle that few young men can win.

Now I know some of you might think, “Is this guy saying men should marry young just to alleviate their sex drive and avoid angering their God with pre-marital sex?” I’m not saying that. The physical urge is definitely an undeniable part of the draw, but I think that adult drive can also coincide with other adult drives, like caring for a family, starting a career, etc. Our society seems to love infantalizing young adults in all areas except for sexual behavior. Young adults are capable of being mature, and getting married matures you quickly.

To me, young marriage makes for more mature young adults, and I want that for my son.

What are your thoughts about getting married young? Good idea or bad advice?



I thought that sexual purity was hard for me to keep, but for you it’s going to be doubly hard. Be strong. Don’t go into marriage blindly, but don’t be afraid of it either. Mom and I had some tough times as young newlyweds — we had almost no money at all for the first few years. Looking back, though, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

There’s Been ANOTHER Change of Plan

If you are familiar with the story behind our adoption of Harrison, you will remember that the recurring theme of the entire process was “there has been a change of plan”. Nothing went the way we planned with Harrison’s adoption, and as we set out again on the path of adding to the family, we were taken on another journey that we could never have imagined.

birth-announcement

About this time last year, my wife was sitting on our couch filling out paperwork for an adoption agency. When she came to the financial section of the form, she read that we had to show proof that we already had enough money saved for an adoption before the paperwork could even be submitted. Harrison’s adoption was private, making the cost significantly lower than an agency adoption. We were a bit shocked to learn that the cost for domestic agency adoptions runs in the $20K-$30K range. At that point, we only had one quarter of the required funds saved up. Out loud, my wife prayed a prayer as she looked at the financial shortfall.

“God, you are the only one who can do this. If adoption is really what you want us to do, then you are going to have to create a miracle.”

She put the paperwork back in the file folder and we began thinking of more ways to save, more ways to raise money, and more ways to cut our family budget.

Weeks passed, and we continued our saving and fund raising efforts. Every penny that we could manage to save was put toward our adoption fund, and we were blessed by donations from a wide variety of people. Our Adoption Idol karaoke night and a time and talents auction put on for us by friends added significantly to our savings, and showed us what a blessing generous family and friends can be. (Side note: the ideas above were inspired by the book “Adopt Without Debt” by Julie Gumm — a great resource for parents who prefer not involving Visa or Master Card in their family planning).

Even still, we were well short of our goal.

Then one day last August, I received a private Facebook message that read, “I know that you mentioned in your blog several months ago the desire to adopt again and fundraising for that cause. Not sure how that is progressing, but after much prompting from God and discussions with my husband we would like to offer you and Heidi and Harrison the opportunity to expand your family with our frozen embryos.” The message was from a couple that had undergone past infertility treatments and had a number of children through IVF. They were certain that their family was complete, and since they did not want to simply destroy their remaining frozen embryos, they asked us if we would we be willing to adopt them and carry them ourselves.

As you can imagine, our heads were spinning. This was completely unexpected (a change of plan, if you will), and we weren’t sure what to do or say. After a lot of prayer and seeking counsel, we felt sure that this was God’s working, and we adopted the embryos and set a plan for implantation. Wouldn’t you know it – the cost of adoption and the medical procedure was the exact amount of money we had saved — an amazing confirmation that God’s hand was in this process.

Thanks to God’s goodness, and the generous support of family and friends alike, we are thrilled to announce that we are expecting Baby Gray 2.0 in October! Thanks to everyone for your love and support.

I’m going to have to rename my blog.



Your adoption taught us so much about God’s provision and faithfulness. Now you get to experience for yourself what it is like to have Him answer our prayers in ways we could never have imagined. I know you don’t understand the full weight of what has happened, but I think you are old enough now that you will be able to look back and clearly remember how God answered your little four year-old prayers for a baby brother or sister. You’re going to be a great big brother.

A Thank You to Foster Parents

Today I saw a Facebook post of some friends of mine who have been foster parents for a sibling group of three little kids over the last few years. The post included a cute, professional family photo of them smiling with their foster kids and their new baby. The caption below it read, “Took a family picture before my oldest daughter has to go live with her bio dad.” The photo and the caption broke my heart.

foster

Many years ago, long before our battle with infertility, Heidi and I were foster parents to a cute little first grader we called JoJo. Heidi got to know JoJo when she was a first grade teacher, and he was a student in her class for a brief amount of time. One day, Heidi came home and told me that she thought we should look into taking him into our home as a foster kid. Apparently, he was in a home with four or five other foster kids and was not happy there. After some paperwork and some contact with CPS, he came to live with our family on Christmas Eve.

One thing we learned quickly was that Child Protective Services — especially in the state of Arizona — has a very strong biology bias. What I mean by that is that they push VERY hard for the rights of biological parents, even in the face of chronic and appalling negligence or abuse. We had it in our minds that we would like to adopt JoJo in order to give him a stable, loving home in which to live, but ours was a maddening uphill battle because the State is generally more interested in a child being with his/her biological parent than being in a loving home. The small-minded idea that blood is more important than bond is something that I have very strong feelings about — but that’s another post altogether.

Eventually, JoJo went back to live with extended family until such a time as his mother was able to get out of jail and get on with living a responsible adult life. From what I can gather, it sounds like she has made some positive changes, and I’m pretty sure JoJo (now 16/17 years old) is either living with or has some contact with her. I’m happy about that — not so much for her sake, but for JoJo’s.

Though it’s been many years since we had JoJo, there is one nagging question I can never seem to shake: Does JoJo’s mom really have any idea what we did for her son? I’m not talking about a roof and three square meals a day, I mean the care and love and protection and stability and guidance that we brought into his life when she was off dealing with her own issues? Is she grateful that there were two loving adults who took her little six year-old and gave him hugs, read him books, and tucked him in at night while she was in jail? When he wondered if his absent parents even loved him, does she care that we assured him that he was valuable and loved by them, by us, and by God?

I hope so.

Even in a more broad sense, do any parents whose kids have been in the foster care system really grasp the tremendous gift that their child was given while they were unable to be there like they should have been? From what I can tell, there isn’t much gratitude there — but there should be.

So to all you foster parents out there who are practicing the art of loving a child who could be ripped away at any minute, I want to say thank you. Thank you for loving children who feel unloved. Thank you for putting your heart at risk for the sake of a smaller, more fragile heart. Thank you for doing one of the most important and thankless jobs there is.

In the case of my friends, thank you for truly making this girl your daughter. The State may not have recognized you as her mom and dad, but I know that you were.

And I think she knows it too.



There are so many good people with big hearts in this world, but I fear that there are even more people who are selfish and ungrateful. Be the person with the big heart. Care for those who are helplessly impacted by the selfishness of others. And if you ever find yourself in a valley in your own life, do what you can to pick yourself back up, but never forget to thank those that gave you a hand and helped to set you back on the right path.

Raising Confidence

We all want our kids to be successful, to be people who make an impact in the world. No good parent looks at his kid and says, “I just want him to be average,” or “If she could be a follower, I’d be so proud.” Still, the world is full of average people, and society is filled with folks who are followers. At what point do parental desires fail to boost our kids past the
reality that more people are average than are great, and what can we do to make sure our kids don’t fizzle into the haze of averageness?

confidence

Every year, I have the opportunity to volunteer at Kurt Warner’s Ultimate Football Experience, an event that helps raise money to support his First Things First Foundation. The event allows people the opportunity to buy a spot on a flag football team that is quarterbacked by a celebrity athlete. Before the games begin, participants get to ask the celebrity QBs questions, and this year someone asked, “What makes a great quarterback?” Everyone on the panel agreed that confidence was the #1 attribute of an effective quarterback. Not natural talent or arm strength or charisma.

Confidence.

Now before you tune out because you think this is just some football post, let me explain that an NFL quarterback is the perfect illustration of a good leader. He not only has to have the confidence that he can beat the 11 men on the other team, he has to have confidence enough to convince the 10 men in his huddle that he is worth following. That’s no simple task, and certainly not one for a person who is unsure of himself. If confidence is an essential trait for the leader of a football team, can’t the same hold true for the owner of a business or a political leader or even a stay-at-home mom?

When I saw the reaction of the 11 football pros all agreeing that confidence is the key to being an effective leader, I began to think about how I can start laying the foundation for my son to develop confidence in his own life. This was not something I could pass on as simply as teaching him to tie his shoes, this was an abstract and daunting task.

During team stretching, I got 2-3 minutes to talk to Kurt Warner about how he teaches confidence to his own kids. To my surprise, he admitted that his kids didn’t inherit his confidence through his DNA, and that it was an ongoing teaching process for him as a father. Just because a father is confident, that doesn’t mean his kids will be. It takes intentional effort.

In reflecting on my talk with Kurt, books I’ve read, and other conversations I’ve had on this topic, I came up with five steps that we parents can take to be intentional about raising a confident kid:

  1. Let him take risks. In a world of helicopter parents, we have to be intentional about letting our kids learn to deal with life without having to buffer them from any and all frustration, pain, conflict, or difficulty. No kid will learn confidence if Mommy and Daddy are always there to catch them before they fall. Part of being confident is knowing how to face challenges. (One great resource for learning to let your kids take appropriate risks is the book and blog Free Range Kids – highly recommended).
  2. Teach her that competence breeds confidence. Sure, raw talent can be an advantage, but hard work can make all the difference when facing conflict or competition. When you are well-studied and well-practiced, you can rely on the confidence that your training has prepared you for what you are about to face. When you’ve put in the work, you will be more confident in your ability to produce results (and an added bonus: hard work will add to your talent level).
  3. Teach him the difference between confidence and cockiness. Sometimes, the line between confidence and cockiness is very thin. When you are truly confident, you do not need to rely on arrogance to prove yourself, your results will speak for themselves.
  4. Give him challenges, not easy wins. Kids hate to lose. Most of them would rather challenge little brother to a wrestling match than challenge big brother. Many adults think that a child’s self-esteem is built on achievement, no matter what level of difficulty. As a former teacher, I found that belief only produces a false, thin veneer of confidence — one that crumbled when facing a real challenge. Instead of letting them win because you don’t want to make them feel bad, encourage them to keep trying until they really beat you. Facing an easy challenge may feel good for a short time, but pushing through big challenges is where deep, lasting confidence is shaped.
  5. Show her confidence by being confident. I’ll be honest, this is a hard one for me; I’m not naturally a confident person. If you want your child to develop confidence, you have to be willing to model that confidence in your own life. How can you encourage your child to take risks when all you ever do is play it safe? Does your child see you opting for the easy wins instead of the tough challenges? I’m a firm believer that a parent’s words are far less effective than his or her actions. I can name a dozen things in my life where I lack the confidence that I want my son to have. If it’s important enough to teach your kid, shouldn’t it be important enough for you to tackle as well?

Do you have any tips to add to my list? Leave a comment below.



Who knew this being-a-dad gig would be so challenging? Not only am I learning how to handle the never-ending changes that naturally come with raising a child, I’m also being forced to continually look at myself through your eyes. Sometimes I don’t like what I see. Oftentimes I feel unprepared to have you follow in my footsteps. But I know that this journey of fatherhood is not an easy win, so I will do my best to face the future with confidence. I won’t do everything right — far from it — but I promise that I will continue to challenge myself and, in the process, challenge you to be a better, more confident man.

20 Questions to Ask Your Kids Each Year

You know you’re getting old when you find yourself telling kids, “I can’t believe how big you are! I remember when you were [insert distant memory here].” The kids roll their their eyes just like we did, confirming our official acceptance in the Weird Things Adults Say Club, and we walk away wondering how we allowed ourselves to become just like the distant relatives and family friends that we swore we’d never be.


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Go Ahead: Judge Your Neighbors

Everyone who truly loves Christmas also loves to see neighborhoods decked-out in true holiday spirit. As we walk/drive/sleigh through each year’s winter wonderland of lights, we see homes with decorations that fill us so full of Christmas Spirit that we could swear we are one carol away from bursting.

Every Christmas season, Heidi and I make it a point to take Harrison on a few evening walks around our neighborhood and check out the Christmas lights. A number of years ago, we started talking about the specific things we liked and the things we didn’t like about the decorations we saw, and eventually we came up with an unofficial scoring process. Well, now we have decided to make our scoring method “official” and share it with the world.

Get your free scorecard, and start judging your neighbors’ yuletide prowess tonight:

Obviously, this is meant as fun way to look at one of America’s favorite holiday past times, so don’t take it personally and come Grinchin’ to me if you see something on the deductions list that you make a yearly part of your holiday decor (sorry, but unnecessary blinkage will always be a deduction). Even my house is not a top-scorer — but we definitely don’t have many deductions.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have posted a photo of our decorated house on the DearHarrison.com Facebook page. While you’re there, why don’t you give us a “like” for Christmas?

What credit/deduction would you add to this scorecard? Leave a comment.



I love this time of year, especially seeing it through your eyes. I hope that you always love Christmas. And even though the lights and presents and snow are a blast, may you never forget that the real meaning of Christmas is infinitely more wonderful. Merry Christmas, buddy!

2012 Generosity Project

Giving is gratitude in action. This Christmas, I thought it would be nice to try out a little mini-project I’ve been rolling over in my brain for a few years. I call it the 2012 Generosity Project, and I would love it if you would consider being involved.

The idea is pretty simple: as you’re out and about this Christmas season, look for some opportunities to show some unexpected generosity to a stranger. It can be as simple as buying coffee for the next person in line or it can be something more significant like having your kids pick another family at the restaurant where you’re having dinner, and paying their bill. Perhaps you could leave a jar of homemade spiced tea mix (a Gray family specialty) and leave it on your neighbor’s doorstep. The opportunities are endless.

Then, in order to keep the ball rolling, I have made a business card-sized note that you can pass along to the recipient of your generosity in hopes of inspiring them to do the same for others. I’ve also included a link back to this post where givers and recipients alike can tell the story of their involvement in the 2012 Generosity Project. How exciting to read the different ways that people choose to be generous this Christmas.

So what do you think? Are you in?

If so, you can download and print the 2012 Generosity Project card, or if you are interested in playing a bigger role, contact me directly and I can mail you up to 25 of the custom cards I printed up. These are thick, high quality cards, and I will mail them to you for free.

Also, don’t forget to tell your story by leaving a comment below!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!



Even though your four year old vision of Christmas is Santa bringing you that telescope you asked him for and getting to go sledding at Grandma’s, I hope you grow each year to see that the Christmas spirit really is more about giving than getting. The world has commercialized Christmas, and on some levels I have no problem with that, but if you let the “things” of Christmas overshadow the meaning, then no amount of presents under the tree will bring you the joy that Christmas should bring. Show gratitude by being generous. Read the stories below of people who were generous this year.