So today was "Giving Tuesday". Is this new? Did we have Giving Tuesday last year? Have I just been too unobservant to notice? I guess I'm just late to the party.
I like the idea of Giving Tuesday so much better than the idea of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I think it embodies the spirit of the season so much more than the other days. And aside from the approximately 10,000 emails I received to day asking for donations, nothing could ruin my mood.
While going about my business, I pondered exactly which charity I should donate to. My bank account certainly took a hit this year, what with me taking 6 months off to hike and now working sporadically. I'd have to think about it, since my funds are limited.
The obvious choice this year, of course, is the Red Cross Philippines Fund, after the devastating typhoon earlier this year. But then again, there are those causes near and dear to my heart, like the Empower SCI program, which puts on a 2 week residential camp each summer for newly spinal cord injured persons. Or the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which was so much a part of my life this year.
Then again, why does giving have to be limited to this day, this Giving Tuesday, each year? Shouldn't the spirit of giving be alive and well all year round? (Especially when I can spare it a bit more?) Perhaps I should start my own Giving Tuesdays, spread strategically throughout the year and written down on my calendar so I can make donations all year round.
And then....as I was driving around doing errands with these thoughts chasing each other around in my head....the answer presented itself before me. By the side of the road was a disheveled looking guy, early 20's, long beard, dirty, holding a sign. "Broke. Hungry. Anything would help."
I remember years ago while visiting a friend in southern California, we went out to eat at a wonderful restaurant and had a lot of leftovers. While strolling along after dinner, carrying our bags of leftover food, we passed a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. I placed my leftover food next to him and continued on with the group.
Then one person in the group told me that it was irresponsible of me to give my food to the homeless guy, since it will just "encourage him to remain homeless". Plus, she added, he could sue me if he got food poisoning. (How he'd ever find me to sue me, much less employ the services of an attorney while homeless was left unanswered)
There are many reasons a person can become homeless: addiction, mental illness, physical or sexual abuse, parents kicking you out of the house because you are gay, post traumatic stress disorder. I'm pretty sure that the perks of free food is not one of them. I'm even more confident that being kind to another fellow human being, sharing my good fortune with somebody less fortunate, feeding somebody who is hungry is a good thing. I'm sure that being kind does not contribute to social problems.
I still feel that way.
Today, the question of where, oh where, can I be charitable was answered very simply. Right in my own backyard. I came out of Costco with a hotdog, chips, a soda, an apple, and a bag of nuts. Some for now, some for later. The disheveled looking guy accepted it all with a smile, put his sign away in his backpack, and sat down to eat.
Happy Giving Tuesday.