Growing up we were the recipients of charity, never the givers. We’d go to food banks on a regular basis, I remember paper food stamps, welfare, free “shops” with toys for Christmas time. We didn’t go on vacation, ever. On necessary road trips we’d sleep in the car instead of hotels. Most of our cars cost less than $100 and acted like it. Our house was so cold I remember waking up the middle of the night to sit in front of the heat register when the furnace would come on. We didn’t have AC. Or sunscreen. Or fresh foods. Or new clothes. We often shopped at dollar stores and discount warehouses. We never had shampoo that cost more than a dollar. If we went camping it was never at a park. It was always down a long dirt road in the woods where we could camp for free. We’d clear our own “tent pad.” We’d dig our own holes. We’d haul rocks for a fire ring.
It took me a long time to realize I’d moved up the ladder. P and I are not rich, not by a long shot, but we eat mostly organic food, buy our own Christmas presents, pay extra on our mortgage each month, and have a vacation fund. We pay our bills without worry. But we don’t eat out much, we don’t “recreational shop” and are intentional about our purchasing. I am still a patient bargain hunter and rarely pay full price. We have old cell phones without internet or picture messaging. But still, we live good, full lives. We don’t worry much, and we don’t have to ask for much. It’s nice.
Since this post I’ve been thinking it’s about time I gave back a little bit. But giving is overwhelming. So many choices! And I always feel like should give more. and more. And then I get overwhelmed and just don’t.
This year P and I came up with a strategy. We chose 12 organizations, one for each month, and will make a donation to one each in turn. The donations are not huge, but it’s affordable and it’s something.
I was able to choose all kinds of places that mean something to us: The Red Cross (for Haiti and because they did a lot when the 35-W bridge collapsed), a food bank near our house, a homeless shelter in our city, a charity that takes inner city kids on bike rides, the Audubon society (birds meant a lot to both my dad and grandma), the MS society (there is MS in both P and my families), Heifer International, a micro loan organization, projects to help preserve the land and rural communities, and charities that help premature babies and children born with Down’s syndrome.
I love this idea. We have enough to give something, and each of these places touches a special place in our hearts. I’m only wishing that there were more months in a year!