11/16/2012 06:29 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2013

A Gift Bigger Than Ourselves

This year the upcoming holidays have caught me by surprise. It seems that fall was in full effect only a few short weeks ago. Now Thanksgiving is right around the corner and, in American tradition, advertisements for Black Friday are in full swing. But while we're standing in line at the shopping malls, it's important to remember that the poor will be standing in line at soup kitchens across Chicago.

Even during the holiday season, when people are often most generous, it's easy to simplify the plight of the poor. We know they need concrete things such as a hot meal, a place to stay for the night, or money to tide them over for a while. This is absolutely an important contribution. But for nonprofits throughout Chicago looking to end poverty once and for all such as Heartland Alliance, where I work, it's clear that additional help is needed. Simple necessities are the building blocks of a safe, stable, healthy life -- housing, health care, jobs and justice. Of course, no one person can provide all these resources -- but nonprofits can.

That's the spirit behind #GivingTuesday. It's the day after Black Friday and Cyber Monday; this year it falls on November 27. It's a day for us to remember those in line at the soup kitchen and to support nonprofits who give them the services they need to escape poverty throughout the year. For some people, it means helping them get housing -- often for the first time in their lives. For others it means connecting them to health care so they can get and stay well. Still others need to train for and get a job. The needs vary but the solution does not -- support for agencies that meet people where they're at, helping them climb out of poverty one step at a time. #GivingTuesday is a great opportunity for all of us to do that.

It's easy to support local nonprofits through #GivingTuesday if you are so inclined. Visit and find a cause that moves you. You can review reports on how effective each nonprofit is and support them at a level you're comfortable with. You can also choose to volunteer through the site and learn how to participate in the #GivingTuesday promotional campaign through social media.

We each have a long list of things to be thankful for -- each and every one of us. So let's remind ourselves of those whose list is much shorter and of the fact that we're able to change that by helping to ending poverty once and for all, one gift at a time.

To view Heartland Alliance's #GivingTuesday gift catalog, click here or visit us on Facebook, Twitter (@heartlandhelps) and YouTube (HeartlandAlliance).