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Posts Tagged ‘giving’

Some things never change.

Seems to me that last year on December 8th, I was worried a great deal about the hunger and cold in Vineland, NJ.  I saw a lot of people huddled and unhappy in the streets, and the weather was, like the Old King Wenceslas carol put it, cruel.

This year the faces I see are in another town in another corner of the US, and some of them are just as sad and cold and needy here as they were (and likely are) in Vineland NJ.  The Salvation Army guy is out ringing his bell and duly wishing givers and non-givers alike a similarly Merry Christmas.  He was cold when I saw him first on Monday.  But he was caring about how he did his ringing, and wishing. 

I told him on Monday that I’d “get him next time.”  “Merry Christmas” he said.   And on Wednesday I “got him” and he wished me Merry Christmas again.  Going in, and going back out of the store, there he was. A young fellow.  He did his job with an aura of serious cheer, if there is such a thing.

This is the time of year I inevitably remember my cute little dark-haired English neighbor who, in yet another town, another decade, knocked on the door and brightly announced that she was collecting for the March of Dimes.  I was really and truly broke (and depressed about it)– really scratching for money as a “displaced homemaker”.  “Cathy, I wish I had something to give, but I just don’t have any money.”  

And she said something that occurs to me every time I am confronted with an opportunity to donate to a worthy cause.  She said,  “It’s the March of Dimes. Have you got a dime?”

I did, of course, on the ledge of the kitchen window.  Cathy taught me that day that if everyone actually gave a dime to the March of Dimes, a whole heck of a lot of money would be given.  Whatever the population of the U.S. is times ten cents is a heck of a lot of money.

We can do this.  I can do it.  I have a stack of loose change that collects when I empty pockets before doing laundry.  I’ve got a thin wallet, but certainly more than a dime this year.

I say do it!  A dime.  A quarter.  All those pennies.  The wadded up dollar you stuffed in the cubbyhole next to the handle of the car door.  Go ahead.  It’ll make your heart feel warm on this very cold day in December.

I’m going to write a card to my wise friend Cathy when I finish this blog.  I happen to know that little English Cathy worked as a very small child at a mill near Blackpool  and had to give all her paycheck to her Granny.  This was in England in a desperately poor country place where there was a peat fire to warm the little row house she lived in.  Granny used to give her a penny back and she would savor the treat she would get from the candy store.  Cathy knew what a dime could bring.  This is not a fairy tale.  This is a real story. And Cathy is a white haired old lady this 8th of December, God bless her.

old swimmer

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Hey Buddy– Got a Buck?  (a related page about the Toys for Tots Bin)

Well it’s that season again — the one that happens right after Thanksgiving and begins with Black Friday, you know?   When we watch the little kids in shopping carts crying and whining and getting reprimanded by their parents who are shopping shopping shopping for toys for the miserable little child who just needs some serenity and a bottle and his own bed.

Do we have time to read blogs, never mind write them, at this season? I think we need to re-assess all this frenetic, joyless, “have-to-ism” during the holiday season.

One of the best decisions our family ever made was at one Christmas gathering where we all sat around before opening the stack of gifts and looked at the stuff sitting by the tree.

It filled up a quarter of the livingroom! It was all lovingly wrapped. One gift from each person to each other person. Oh, and several gifts to each child from each person. And extra gifts to certain others who were surrogate family. And the neighbors. And to whomever might stop by and might expect a little something.too-many-gifts-copy

We were all tired! We were all broke and worried about it.  And sort of embarrassed by the muchness of stuff we were about to tear into.  And we said so to each other! (That was the beginning of lucidity.)

Then, after the stuff was opened and adored and sorted into each person’s pile, we talked. We said how much we liked getting nice things, but that we liked even better just being together around the tree.

We decided that Christmas that NEXT year we would do it differently. ONLY CHILDREN get presents from everyone. And the grownups (you know, those broke individuals with credit card bills that would stretch maybe even until next year before paid?) would come to the party with only ONE gift for a grownup. It had to be under, say $20.00 and could be something that was suitable for anyone over 18. It should be wrapped, and surreptitiously placed in a pile of anonymous parcels. This pile would be “auctioned off” by drawing names– everyone having put three slips with their name on it in a basket. You could “take” someone else’s selection if you wanted, or you could take a gift from the pile. When all the names were used up, that was your gift. (you could swap later if you wanted.)

This turned out to be so much fun! The gifts had to be cheap, so they often were very funny. The little kids were jealous, the adults were having so much fun. They could hardly wait to grow up enough to play this new game.

We still do this. It means we can go to the toy store, or order toys on line for the kids. Then we can find one thing for the drawing. We can cook nice food. We can put our babies in for normal naps, and stay away from the sniffling, weeping, cranky- sounding stores with people coughing and snarling and looking like death.

We arrive at our party feeling…well, happy! We go away feeling good, and also smart. We have licked this oxymoron “Merry Christmas”.

Plus, we have time to read and write blogs!

Writing instead of shopping,

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