Now that the annual gathering of friends and family for the Thanksgiving orgy of consumption (usually consisting of food, alcohol and football) and the international embarrassment of Black Friday are behind us, we enter the Holiday Season™ where our focus is supposed to be: on giving to others. In a consumer-based society, like ours in the United States, this giving usually takes the form of things. Kids give their parents endless lists of things they need to get for Christmas. Adults decide to give themselves some of the things they’ve desired over the year, as well.
Instead, perhaps we should turn our focus outward and consider how much we truly need. Like most middle-class Americans, my life is an embarrassment of riches. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and clothes that fit (at least they did before last Thursday’s excessive eating). My children are healthy and getting a good education. My biggest current struggles: an intermittently backed up sewer line (damn you beautiful, tree-lined, suburban street) and an Airport wireless connection that fails whenever someone in the house is watching U-Verse TV or the DVR is recording (a problem solved by plugging an ethernet cable into my laptop, but that’s sooo inconvenient). My family’s life is the epitome of the blessings and problems (if you can call them that) of first-world life. There is nothing we truly need. Well, the children do need clothes because their balanced diet is helping to fuel their growth spurts.
Every year, instead of the ritual purchase, wrapping, and shipping of gifts to distant friends and relatives, my wife and I choose a charity for donations made in the name of the aforementioned folks. They don’t really need anything from us, and we certainly don’t really need anything from them. So, why not do good for others while still acknowledging the importance of these people in our lives.
This year, I’ve chosen my longtime favorite motorcycle related charity, Riders for Health. While many MotoGP fans are likely familiar with Riders for Health, thanks to support from riders and the fundraising auctions held at MotoGP events around the world, what sets Riders apart from other organizations that work to deliver healthcare to people living in rural Africa is the self-supporting infrastructure it creates. Many people don’t realize that the donation of a vehicle does nothing for the local community if it breaks down and there are no parts or mechanics to service it. Riders for Health teaches locals how to repair and maintain the motorcycles that the professional health workers use to deliver medicine and other life-saving aid. When the motorcycles have reached the end of their useful life, new ones are provided.
Riders has been doing this for 20 years, improving access to healthcare for 12 million people. By traveling by bike, the health care workers can increase the patients they serve sixfold while still doubling the time they spend in each community. They’re not just providing medicine; these professionals are delivering supplies, educating their clients, and transporting samples for tests (in 50% less time). So, I can’t help but support an organization that uses motorcycles to help people.
Motorcyclists have a long history of giving to others. Just look at all the toy runs and food drives that many local clubs organize. Honda’s Ride for Kids has operated throughout the country for 30 years, helping many children and their families. This year, take the time to consider making a donation to one of the many charitable organizations that have a proven track record for helping others instead of sending yet another obligatory, unnecessary gift. Your money will do double work: You’ll get a card to send announcing your donation in your recipient’s name, and you’ll know that you’ve helped others. If the organization is associated with motorcycles, you’ve also done your part to improve the image of motorcycling, to boot.
If giving is the heart of the Holiday Season, thankfully giving some of the bounty we are fortunate to possess can help to make the world a better place.