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.