It's Poetry Monday but I am giving it a pass today in order to post something that has been on my mind lately. Anyone who would like to leave a poem in the comments is still welcome to do so. The theme this week is Harvest, and you can use it or not, as you like.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I have a lot to be thankful for: living in a democratic, peaceful country, in a region where the weather is varied and interesting but not deadly, with access to good health care paid by our tax system, and caring, kind family members close by. I have plenty of healthy food, clean air, decent shelter and, as you might recall, far more than enough clothing (although I will remind you it was purchased at dirt-cheap prices).
About twenty years ago, a friend lent me a copy of Amy Dacyczyn's book, The Tightwad Gazette. It was based on the newsletters of the same name that, at their height of popularity in the 1990s, had over 100,000 subscribers. Her tips for living frugally were meant to help people pay less but be able to live happily and healthily. There is a short YouTube video from 2009 HERE. It explains a little more about her philosophy if you're interested.
As much as I enjoyed Amy's frugality ideas, recipes, sewing tips, and overall approach to life, there was one essay in her book that really stood out for me, so much so that I typed it out to keep, and I have thought of it in many situations and at many times in my life in the ensuing two decades. It is called "A Stolen Thanksgiving Soap Box Speech", and was paraphrased from a lay sermon preached by her neighbor, Charlie Woodward, who worked with low-income families and the homeless.
In Amy's words:
I had heard bits and pieces of this sermon before. I have picked his brain on a number of occasions to understand why poor people are poor. Invariably the conversations have concluded as Charlie patiently reminded me that we have not all been born with the same gifts.
A gift is anything that we have that we did not work for. People born to wealth have more advantages than those born in poverty. People with a high intelligence will probably fare better than those born with low intelligence . . .
. . . Being born in [a First World country] is a gift. While not all of us are rich, we are likely to have greater opportunities for education, health care, and employment than those living in Third World countries.
Health is a gift, at least the health with which we were born. Most of us are botching it to some degree or another. But our genetic package plays a large role in why some can abuse their health and never get sick while others work at being healthy and still get sick.
Those of us who were raised in good families have a gift. Not everyone was raised with love, security, positive feedback, and values. Charlie believes that the "work ethic" is also a gift. Some parents taught it to their kids and some parents did not.
Many examples come to mind of individuals who have overcome a lack of gifts. These people always have a variety of other gifts.
The bottom line is to understand that what we have and who we are has a lot to do with factors we received in a package deal when we came into the world.
She goes on to explain that most people use their gifts well enough to have either a surplus of either time or money, and that by donating some of our surplus time, money, or energy we express thankfulness for the abundance of gifts with which we were born.
Over the years I have tried to do what I can to help others. Money has not always been in surplus here but there are other ways to give back. When our children were young, I did quite a lot of door to door canvassing for various charities, and for eight years I was a local officer of a national organization to promote education .
During this time our daughter became very ill and volunteering went by the wayside for a few years. Her health had just begun to improve when my father had his stroke, and for the next eight years I was busy with responsibilities related to his care. It took me two years after his death to feel like I had the energy to do anything other than look after myself (except for "mom" emergencies, fuelled by adrenaline rather than a surplus of energy).
And that brings us to the present.
I'm thinking it's time I started doing something to give back again. I don't know what that something is, but my eyes and ears and heart are open.
Have you been lucky in the lottery of life? Have you had bad luck but choose to do what you can with what you have? If you are giving back to the world, would you consider sharing with me what you do? I am looking for ideas, the more the better. (Note: I know some of what a few of you do--I have been paying attention, but maybe tell me again for the benefit of others who may not know.)