Saturday, December 18, 2010

In the Spirit of Giving

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.
~Maya Angelou


This is the time of year charities count on the "Christmas Spirit" to open up our hearts and our pursestrings and support their noble activities for the entire year.  Food banks typified with bare shelves 11 months a year, suddenly find their stores overflowing.  Homeless shelters are bombarded with individuals, groups, and companies wanting to help.  From clean water, to housing, to canned goods, to toys for tots....they are all on our list at this time of year.

Every year for the past several years, when we finally started to realize we had too much for one household, we give a little back.  We sponsor charities at work - Water for People, Toys for Tots, NY Cares Coat Drive.  We stuff dollars into fireman's pails at intersections, uniformed Salvation Army volunteers' pails at grocery stores, and every jar at every store counter we come across.  We pay forward the grocery store gift cards we've received from my husband's company as an employee bonus.  We try to buy gifts from organizations that donate some of the proceeds to other causes.  We sponsor letters to Santa from the Post Office - we've given bikes, video games, coats, underwear, jeans, etc.  We select a charity each year and give a little extra - Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, The Cancer Society.

At other times of the year, when asked, we give.  Joey's boy scouts. Timmy's ride for the cure.  Susan's walk for the cure.  Alice's candy sale for the school trip.  Denise's dress drive for prom night.  We participate in the back to school clothes for kids program, giving book bags and new clothes and shoes to needy kids to help them enter their new school year bright and shiny like the other kids in their class.  We've donated to veteran's causes in honor of our military family members, past, present and future.

I don't tell you all this to take credit for the giving.  Because to tell the truth, I'm the needy one.  I'm the one who needs to feel a little less selfish, a little less self-absorbed, and even a little less lucky.  I need to even the playing field as I look at more and more families with education and loving family backgrounds being driven into poverty and desperation.  I need to know why my family survives and thrives while others fail. 

This week, other blogs (Bloggess you rock) got personal with their donations.  They asked people in need to just say the word and those in better stead, stepped up and fulfilled that need.  I came late to the party - all the needs on that list were satisfied.  I still signed up, late is better than never.  Because I know it is a thin line that we all walk today.  A very thin line between having and not.  Between healthy and working and sick and not.  Between sheltered and not.  Between lucky...and not.  If you read the Bloggess post and don't cry....I can't possibly relate to you. 

In the store the other day, a woman turned to me, her basket full of toys, clothes, gifts, and said, "Do you hear that song? It's the most wonderful time of the year? It's the happiest time of the year?  Bleh.  It's the most expensive time of the year."  I smiled and moved on, wondering about how we all forget how lucky we are that we can afford to fill our shopping carts. 

Today I got a holiday card from my Aunt.  In the card she wrote this:

"Dear Wendy and Carl,

What I would have spent on your gifts, I bought a truck, mittens, and a hat for the 4 year old boy in the L.L. Bean family (charity).  He will be a happy little guy.

Wishing you a healthy, happy Christmas and New Years.

Much love from
Aunt Marge"

This is already my favorite gift this year.

Take a moment today - a few days before the solstice, a few weeks after Hannukah, a short week before Christmas and look around you at every blessing you possess.  It's a little early I know, but I'm starting my long list of resolutions for 2011.  #1 on the list is Find Ways to Give Back.  And that means throughout the year, not just at the holidays.  If you have ideas for me, please let me know.  I'm looking to, like the Bloggess and the Grinch, grow my heart a few sizes.


Jane- 2 of 7 said...

You do find ways to give back already, at least in similar ways that I do. My general modus operandi is to support the causes my family and friends ask me to: several run/walk in different Relays for Life. My niece ran in a fundraiser for liver cancer in honor of my late husband (dare I say her favorite uncle?-well one of them). I support each of these causes plus the local police fundraiser. I have a friend who spends much of his spare time volunteering with Special Olympics, they get a donation from me annually. My other "give back" is volunteering in the community. I do this through our local Friends of the Library. I've been involved with the group off and on for over 14 years. So, not just money, but time is important. When you can. Some people's lives are just too busy raising their families right now. There will be time later.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I just read the comments over there--truly heartwarming.

We are giving this year to a family my husband's coworker discovered when they were handing out turkeys and bags of Thanksgiving dinner fixings. They are getting furniture, clothes, toys and a tree--everything.

Chelle said...

What amazing generosity!
I agree with Jane, I give what I can, but volunteering is also great, often you get to look the recipient in the eyes. Try it in 2011!

Susan said...

I had finished my gift shopping when I got a paycheck with a bonus from my new job. I was thinking about shopping for me, but I bought things to donate instead (coats, socks, gloves, etc.). I am grateful that I have a job, even if it is only part time so far - so I wanted to help someone who wasn't as lucky as me this year.

Sarah said...

I don't even know which words I should use... I think ultimately what I want to say (after Thank You) is that I'm so touched by your perspective! The line is indeed thin and sometimes we forget how fragile. I want my daughters to grow up knowing that sometimes they'll be the haves, but they've also been a have not at least once. Perspective is important and you are a gem. Thanks for finding your way into my life :)

Wenderina said...

All: Today my heart is filled with love and spirit and not just the usual gunky cynical crud. I credit you all and of course Jenny at the Bloggess.

Special note to Sarah - it was my honor. I love that I have connected with someone like you. Please keep in touch - I'm here most every day...well I try...

In the words of Tiny Tim, "God (and the Bloggess) bless us, every one." (well I'm sure he would have said that if he knew Jenny.