Christmas_2014_MKG-2833 2As the holiday season comes to an end I can’t help but reflect on what that time of year means. In a word…giving. Giving of gifts, time, love and donations to people and initiatives we care about.

But sometimes, we are just giving for the sake of giving. Often it is what is expected, and many times we are giving because it makes us feel good. Sometimes that giving makes us feel better than the person receiving the gift.

A colleague of mine was sharing that her daughter, son and ex-husband delivered Christmas dinner to single mother and her children. They brought a turkey, all the fixings and presents for the kids. This was an initiative organized by a community charity. After the daughter returned home, she felt unsatisfied. As a matter of fact, she felt empty and awkward as she felt like she was imposing on the family’s privacy. As it turned out, something was missing for this teenage girl, and it appeared to be the feeling of selflessness.

She realized this gift of ‘Christmas dinner’ was not about the receiver, but rather the givers. It was about her and her family feeling good about contributing to someone else’s holiday.

This act was more about the messenger than the mission.

By tuning into this experience, this teenage girl recognized afterward that perhaps the mother should have been given the dinner & gifts to present to her family, rather then be positioned as a victim of circumstance because she was unable to provide for her family.

It takes courage to ask for help, and in doing so the mother was able to provide for her family, and ensure there was a little joy for her children at Christmas. The question becomes, did this special day need to be highlighted with a strange family dropping in to save the day?

Could this contribution have been better served? What if the generosity of the charity made the mother look like the hero, rather then the strangers?

Sure there are arguments on both sides of this, with the strangers providing the gifts, the children learn about other people’s kindness and generosity. But could it not also perpetuate dependence on this very kindness?

I defer to Yetnebersh Nigussie, a young woman in her twenties who co-founded a local organization called Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD). The objective of ECDD is to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in different development programs including economic empowerment.

I interviewed Yetnebersh in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for Wisdom Exchange TV in 2012. She along with her organization ECDD has enabled more than 25 groups of disabled persons, each having more than 15 members on average, engage in different business activities and shift from being objects of charity to subjects of productivity.

I asked Yetnebersh, who is blind, about a comment she makes in her biography. She says: “I have 1% disability and 99% of abilities to invest in. People tend to forget the 99 abilities a person has and focus on the one disability, which ultimately leads to charity.” This led me to asked her: “What impact do you think charity has on society and individuals?” She confidently responded:

Watch short segment here:

“Charity is always based on the goodwill of the giver. The receiver has no say. All he or she has to do is receive what has been given. There is an issue of pride and sustainability. I feel proud when I am given something from what I have worked on. I feel that I deserve that. I can never deserve charity. It is on the good will of the giver.

I am not against being generous, but giving something is impoverishing someone. Making them even poorer. I only give opportunities. That is how I think people can be generous to others. For charity you are giving something that you don’t want sometimes, or what you think that other’s want. You believe you are in a better position to give. We are all in a position to give and complement each other. Charity makes people superior and inferior, and brings on the class division, which I don’t like.”

To watch the rest of the interview visit:


Yetnesbersh’s words, along with my experiences interviewing pioneering women in Africa for four years has impacted my view of charity drastically. The personal insights gained were the primary catalyst for developing the concept of consistent conscious contribution into everyday living.

The philosophy is based on:

  1. We all have the opportunity to contribute to our colleagues, company, community, country and beyond no matter what our personal circumstances.
  2. We need to be more conscious of the impact our contribution is having. Is it hurting or helping the people we intend to empower?
  3. How do we consistently contribute so our initiative creates sustainable real change in the lives of the people we intend it to?

The answers are not easy. One way to explore them is by listening to where we have interviewed over 70 African women pioneers who seem to consistently consciously contribute to the betterment of their communities, countries and continent.

These pioneering African women are truly more focused on the mission than on being the messenger.

In the case of our Christmas story, could Christmas not have been more magical for the receivers if the mother was the messenger? Then the mission would have been accomplished.

Conscious Contributions™ in Action:

Look around to see where you can contribute to a person a hand up, rather then a hand out. What skills, insights, time, and/or knowledge can you provide that would be of value to another person? What is the best way to share it with them that they will receive the most value? Implement and alter accordingly.

Consciously contribute could be as easy as in all your communications truly listening to someone’s perspective and not focusing on offering your opinion. Learn their perspective, ask questions and just listen. This often can be the best contribution we can make…giving our energy to another through being an active listener.

Suzanne F. Stevens CSP*, Cultivates conscious contributions™ and influential communications. Suzanne is an International Speaker, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Host, Co-producer and Chief Edge Optimizer for Ignite Excellence Inc. Group. She is a recipient of The International Women Alliance World of Difference Award in 2013 – in education. This acknowledgement recognizes people who make a difference in women’s economic empowerment.  To find out more visit:

*Suzanne is one of 60 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is in the exclusive 12% of speakers who have this designation internationally. 

Suzanne F. Stevens - YouMeWe
Suzanne F. Stevens - YouMeWe

Conscious-Contributions™ Cultivator: Author, Professional Speaker, Moderator, and Social Entrepreneur. Founder of YouMeWe Social Impact Group — igniting a culture where your contribution counts for you • your company • your community. |