What’s in your pockets? Pockets carry what we care about - cash, change, credit cards, keys and cell phones. Pockets are hiding spots for nervous hands, little boy’s rocks and Littlest Pet Shop pets. As a child, my brother carried rocks in his pockets and my granddaughter today carries Littlest Pet Shop toys.
Pockets were mostly practical in the 17th century and a fashion statement in Queen Victoria’s era. Pockets disappeared from women’s clothing when skirts took on narrow silhouettes in the late 19th century, only to return in the early 20th century as women donned men’s trousers as both fashion and political statements. Pockets have been around for a very long time.
As early as the Bronze Age, pockets were pouches worn around the waist. The earliest European specimen of a naturally preserved human, nicknamed the Iceman, was discovered in 1991 by German tourists in the Alps at the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley glacier on the Austrian-Italian border. The glacier encased the lower part of his body. The curious tourists thought they stumbled onto a recently deceased mountaineer, only to learn later he was at least 4,000 years old. After careful analysis, archeologists determined he had been perfectly preserved in ice for 5,300 years. The Iceman also had a perfectly preserved pocket.
The contents are at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy. The Iceman carried a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl and a dried fungus in his pocket.
Today, pockets can be deep, shallow, front, back, down the legs, inside and outside. You might have one or two or seven. How many pockets are in your pants?
Like all the different pockets in your pants are the many ways you give when you make charitable donations. You might write checks from your checking account, charge a donation to your credit card, give from a donor-advised fund or include an organization in your will. Every pocket represents a different giving style.
That’s what makes America one of the most generous countries in the world. We give from many pockets, in many different ways.
America’s most generous year ever was 2016. Giving nationwide was $373.25 billion. To get a perspective on just how much cash that is, I calculated that if we laid 373.25 billion one-dollar bills end to end, we could stretch all around the world at the equator 39.5 times.
However, we do not claim the No. 1 spot in the World Giving Index for giving behavior, according to the Charities Aid Foundation. It conducts a worldwide study of 140 countries, representing 96 percent of the world’s population. It has annually conducted the survey of world generosity measuring the percent of individuals donating in a typical month, hours they volunteer and willingness to help a stranger.
We come in second place for percent of individuals donating in a typical month. Myanmar, a country of only 261,277 square miles and 51 million people in Southeast Asia, claimed first place. Researchers suggest Myanmar’s unusually high giving behavior is due to a strong Buddhist tradition. It is home to an estimated 500,000 monks supported by lay devotees, which explains why it has ranked first place for three years in a row.
America does, however, rank in the top 10 on the World Giving Index. All our giving pockets, large and small, tell our story. We give our money and our time generously, and have always done so.
What about right here in East Texas? There is no scientific index to prove it, but I am sure East Texas would rank high. Some years ago, the manager of the Petroleum Club, once located atop the Citizens Bank Building in downtown Tyler, told me that in his many years as a club manager across the South, he had never worked in a community with so many nonprofit special events.
It requires many pockets to support many nonprofit organizations. Unlike the Iceman, most of us do not intend to preserve what’s in our pockets. We frequently use what’s in them for the good of others. East Texans’ pockets come in all shapes and sizes, and so do our gifts.