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On Giving: Easy Thoughts on How to Make a Difference

On Giving Easy Thoughts on How to Make a Difference

While I feel like the Christmas decorations have been up in Walmart and Home Depot since the 4th of July, if you haven’t been inundated yet with consumeristic, holiday-related advertising, you soon will.

And nothing is more frustrated about giving, getting, giving back, and taking back presents that it happeningduring the season itself.

So, here’s a couple candid, non-prescriptive thoughts on ways you can perhaps make a difference and consider doing something different, meaningful, and more effective this year as you consider your generosity. I hope you walk away thinking, and perhaps extending your hand in natural, meaningful ways that make sense to you personally.



When most folks think of generosity, they often think, “I have nothing to give,” “I can’t make a difference,” or, “they don’t need me.”

Stop. Yes, you can.

This is like wanting to be healthy and not going to the gym. Your mind is at war with your heart, and you’ve overthinking it. You’ve got to start by thinking, “Yes, I can.”

“Yes, I can give. Yes, I can make a difference, Yes, they do need me.”


Now that I’m starting to get pumped up, I really like thinking in terms of “today & tomorrow.”This clever mantra is awesome when it comes to generosity. The level of work it requires is minimal, but incredibly effective.

For instance, I choose one small action, and one small response. For example,

  • Today I will clean out my pantry, andtomorrowI’ll take it to the food bank.Or, another example
  • Today I will go through my children’s clothes, and tomorrow we’ll drop them off at Goodwill (or other local organization).
  • Today I will pick up some gloves and scarves, and tomorrow I will stop and give them to a homeless person if I see them.

Its non-prescriptive. One size doesn’t fit all, and the opportunities that you have are limited to only your imagination and your ability to research, ask, and think.


Forgive the alliteration, but when it comes to giving, I like to think on three plainsmy time, my treasure (money), and talent (skills + abilities).

It won’t be soon until you’ll see the Salvation Army volunteer ringing, or even getting a call from a local organization. Don’t be mad. They know that they HAVE to capture people while giving and generosity is more likely on their minds, and while they’re doing shopping. This is OK.

But, consider the opportunity for you to find a place that doesn’t first and foremost need your money. Instead, think about time.

  • How much free time do you have?
  • Could you carve out some time during the week to share yourself with someone, someplace?

This doesn’t have to be anything you feel gifted at. It can be reading to children, volunteering in an after school program, or simply just showing up and asking what can be done, or what they need. Just show up.That’s the most important thing.

When it comes to things you’re passionate about, or good at, think about what you enjoywhat you’re good at, or the reason your friends and family come to you for help. You may be good with people, ideas, physical / mechanical objects, or numbers. You certainly could offer this as well.

Personally, I love kitties. I didn’t realize this until I was older, and got my first cat. Then, I discovered the needs that many feral, abandoned, sheltered, and non-spayed / neutered cats have. There were so many options. All I needed to do was find the kitties. Or find the homes that wanted to adopt a forever cat/ kitten. I even rescued seven cats on my own. I learned so much, and discovered I truly enjoyed it.

I’m also good at ideas, so I started a program where I could donate professionally my services to deserving local organizations. And while I like this, there’s more opportunities outside of my profession. I love camping. Cooking. Being a host / entertaining. Once I knew what I love, now I can participate with youth organizations camping, cooking at local events, or hosting a community meeting and meeting neighbors or allowing a space for conversations about organizations to occur.

When it comes to money, when my time and talent are involved, its so naturally to want to get involved, and give. But then, there’s organizations, where they may have the staff, or geo-locationally, I can’t participate. So, those are the ones that I WANT to give to. Rehabilitating boys + children in a war-torn country from children armies? Yes, please, sign me up. Helping drill water wells in Sierra Leone? Yes, that’s my family, I’ll support them. I may NOT have the skills, but I connect with their passion and purposenot their request for money, first and foremost.



So, let’s recap. First, let’s remember,yes, you can.Then, do something today and tomorrow.You can do this as often as you’d like. Try it once a week. Then twice a month. Then, as often as you can think to. It’ll change your life, and most importantly, many others.

Lastly, start considering what organizations you want to donateyour time, money, and passions to consistently this next week. Next month. And if you like it, continually for a couple months. Start one day at a time. That’s all we have to truly give.



A Dollar General in Inglewood: A Letter of Discouragement


Recently, I was made aware that developers proposed to build a Dollar General in our neighborhood. So, I was invited to email our councilwoman. Here’s what I said.


I’m on the FB Burrus Neighbors group, I live off Baxter Ave, just on the corner of Gillock (across from the guy with the Obama signperhaps you’ve seen).

I’m 29, an entrepreneur, passionate about design + education, and community development. My MFA thesis was a project called Design a Better Nashville, which was a potential campaign in partnership with the Civic Design Center, focus on social-driven awareness of community development, giving people a chance to provide direct input on the community, projects + even jumpstart projects. So, I’ve thought about a few things like this beforeif you’d like to view it, you’re welcome to.

As a resident, and potential (someday) father and husband, I want to invest into a community and see small businesses flourish. My company recently finished a brand design for a ‘think local’ concept, and is finishing the website for an April 17th launch. You’ll be seeing it around middle Tennessee for sure, called myTown.

Overall, If you can’t tell, I’m passionate about small business, sustainability, and the economy. Local economy. Here’s what I know:


By choosing to support local business (founded by individuals within the community, you not only get great personal serviceand value, you also help strengthen our local community and economy. Here’s a great info-graphic that shows what happens with the local dollar.

(Source: Local Works! Examining the impact of local business, acivic economics study for Local First, Grand Rapids Michigan)

I’m discouraged to hear that we would potentially put a Dollar General, and I would like to strongly speak against it. Here’s 3 great reasons why not to build a Dollar General.


Yeah, sure the owner lives in that nice green farm off of concord road with the fences and horses, and is a “local organization,” right? Not quite. While its headquartered here, this monolith of discounts not only wholesales and retails items shipped from all across the country making profits from low-cost goods, its nothing more than a low-end big box store. Walmart’s unfortunate cheap alternative. What’s worse is that Dollar General knows its cheaper to build new than it is to remodel and take care of the Trinity Lane / Gallatin location. Inexcusable.


The reputation a Dollar General brings for low income housingresidents, and lower-income areas is not positive. Its sending a message on concession to the community of “yes, we have one of those,” and allowing the standards of quality and presentation down the drain. Want to position inglewood for growth? Fight for a Publix, a Chic-Fil-A near Briley or a Starbucks. Higher-end purchases with a positive reputation. We already have enough cash-checking businesses and pawn shops.


Inglewood is a “nicer “part of East Nashville. And while that may seem subjective, the 37216 statistics show that the majority of residents are constituents higher than the $30k-a year income level, with 4-6 bedroom homes, and a college degree. The statistics show a growing population of younger families, gentrified areas, and developing real estate. I don’t know any young married families that would be caught dead in a Dollar General. In fact, that’s their fear. Why is that?

Similar to what was done to downtown during its former redevelopment (focus on night clubs, and single folks) DT nashville now suffers as those short term lifestyle goals fell short. It learned and now has to focus on tourism more heavily, as those families now are seeking elsewhere to entertain. Likewise, Inglewood needs to be positioned for the future. With commerce, education, and local municipal design and development seeking the greater good of the constituents.

Building a Dollar General simply says that our town is pretty much worth, in general, a dollar. Or less.

I look forward to your interactions and continued conversation.


Stven Frey

I can’t wait to hear what happens next.