Monday, 9 October 2017


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.)



  1. Hello Jenny, I love what you have written about Tightwad Gazette and although I've heard of this publication I've not read it. Like you I shall print this out. We take what we have for granted and never think of those worse off than ourselves and this is a good reminder.

    Anyway, this is the poem I did for Thanksgiving, but decided it was more suitable for Harvests.

    Thanksgiving means so much
    To everyone who has grown,
    A bountiful harvest supper,
    When reaping what they have sown.

    The hard work has paid off
    With the struggles of the land.
    The unpredictable weather
    And the oft complaining hand.

    The barns are now full
    With the animals winter feed.
    Our larders are filling up
    With the produce that we'll need.

    Fruit and vegetables have been turned
    Into jams and chutneys for us.
    We'll taste the fruits of summer
    And forget about all the fuss.

    We'll get our rest this winter
    When the land is covered in snow.
    We'll then do the same next year
    After reaping what we did sow.

    So it's a time of Thanksgiving
    To the earth and the bounty thereon.
    May the world keep on turning
    With good growth under the sun.

    Have a good week.
    Joan (Devon)

    1. The continual turning of seasons . . . well done, Joan. I especially like the lines "We'll taste the fruits of summer/And forget about all the fuss" - how true!

      Thanks for contributing, Joan!

    2. I SO love this time of year. The smells of earth and harvest. Fruits and vegetables being canned and bottled or merely gathered together in the root cellar. Your poem invoked all of this! Thank you!

  2. I feel very fortunate to be living in this country. That is definitely a gift given to me by my parents who decided to settle in Canada when they left their native land in the late 50s. And it was a gift given to them by this amazing country that opened its doors to them.

    I've had ups and downs in life, and moments of grief, but I feel like I've been very lucky in life. For one, I was fortunate enough to have (and I continue to have) a very loving and supportive family, particularly two incredible parents. Sadly, one of them is gone, but the legacy of love and kindness that he left behind helped shape who I am today.

    I have always given back in some way throughout my life. There were times when I was able to give financially to charities but extra money wasn't always available, so I mostly I donated items. I've given away tons of things throughout my life and I continue to do so, at least twice a year.

    But my favourite thing is volunteering. My most recent was dedicating time to hospice; an amazing organization. My volunteer days came to an end when we moved here but I plan to get back into it when the house renovations come to an end. I figure after the holidays.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Our parents are a big part of our life situation, aren't they - I've been lucky too in that regard.

      May I ask what you did with the hospice organization? I'm trying to find something that's a good fit for me, but as an introvert, I know I don't do as well with people as I'd like. You're an introvert, too. How do you manage it? (If you'd rather go to private email, mine is and is also always available via "my complete profile" under About Me at the top right of this page.)

    2. As an introvert it is hard sometimes to get involved, so I'm really careful and sometimes take longer than necessary to seek information. I just don't want to get stuck doing something that isn't a good fit for me. Anyhow, with hospice I did a one on one home visit, which was nice. I would spend time with a chronically or terminally ill person and provide relief to their caretaker(s). The last family I was assigned to...well, I spend almost a year and a half with them. And I was looking after a 90 year old man with early dementia every Wednesday for about 3- 4 hours while his family was away. It was a great experience and I got attached to all of them. But I don't know if I'll do it again. I found it a little isolating. I would rather volunteer at a hospital and walk from room to room speaking to different patients. I don't work outside the home anymore and this would be my socializing. Anyway, I'll add your email to my list and shoot out a message to you over the weekend! We can become email buddies :) Hope that doesn't scare

    3. Thanks for the additional info, Martha - by all means, please add me to your email list!

  3. We are so blessed, Jenny! And you're so giving with your kind words and encouragement. You probably don't even know the encouragement you have given me to carry on! I serve by producing plays with a children's group in our town. Getting those kids together is a lot of work, but when I see them glowing on stage, it's totally worth it!

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Diane! I think that helping youth find fun and worth is a wonderful way to give. I'd love to see one of those performances! When I was a young teen there was a community theatre formed in our village by a young couple who had moved there from the USA. Every child in the community who wanted to be involved was able to do so; it was so much fun. We did two different plays and even took them on the road. It was one of the highlights of my growing up years :)

  4. Yeah, I feel like I won the lottery by being born a healthy, white, male, in California in 1960.
    That I have been poor for a large portion of my adult life is my own doing, and I still feel good about the trade-offs I made in that department.
    I just try to be someone who the people I know have better lives for knowing me.
    Some days that's a really tall order, but mostly I feel pretty good about it.
    If we all just do what we can, when we can do it, things work much smoother for everyone.
    Thanksgiving Day in Canada? That I can get behind. It's Columbus Day here, and that I can't really support.

    -Doug in Oakland

    1. You've captured the whole thing with this: "I just try to be someone who the people I know have better lives for knowing me." I think if we strive for this, we can be happy with ourselves at the end of the day.

      You could always say you're an Honourary Canadian for a day and eat turkey with all of us up here, Doug! I'll send you your HC certificate if you want :)

  5. We all have some gifts and some even use them well. I volunteer as I did not become nearly as wealthy as I had hoped I would, but I have enough of the basics and some of what would be considered luxuries in much of the world. We should all be so lucky. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks, Jono! Yep, most of us are far luckier than we even realize. And, wait - are you saying you're not rich? Of course you are; you're rich in cats!

  6. Happy Thanksgiving, Jenny! I can't believe my luck in being born in Canada to loving parents who believed in the value of work and education. That alone seems like all the luck anyone should be allowed. :-)

    I've volunteered and donated to charities sporadically all my life, but I haven't had time to commit to fulltime volunteering for any one project. Best of luck with your quest - any charitable organization would be thrilled to have you!

    1. We're so lucky in Canada and don't even think about it a lot of the time. Thanks for those kind words, Diane :)

  7. This is oscar winning post or bigger award than that .

    I am overwhelmed by your sharing dear jenny and my eyes have tears ready to pour down on keyboard.

    You are really loving and compassionate daughter ,mother and generous human being .
    your parents must be were and are (on any planet they are) so proud of you!

    thank you for sharing this Marvelous post of today which has everything which is NEED OF TODAY.

    i respect your attitude and yes either i have such restlessness in my soul to look for the some more meaningful and useful purpose of my life ,waiting for day one i will have time .

    Thank you again for this touching and heartwarming writing my friend!!!

    1. You are so generous with your praise, baili! Thank you for your kindness. I know that right now it doesn't seem like your mothering duties will ever slow down, but it will happen and you will have more of the time for the other things in life you wish to do! Some days it is hard to wait but being a good parent is such an important job and you are doing it well.

  8. What a great post! I am sorry that I don't stop by here more often. Thanks for reminding me what a great life I have been gifted.

    1. Thanks for dropping in today, Cindy - and aren't we lucky?

  9. Oh the tightwad gazette- I think my good friend tried to make play dough or something from dryer lint based on a TG article. It did not go well. I do agree with the sermon, though. I've always felt if you had good, loving, steady parenting you are way ahead of the game. We all need love and compassion and maybe a little less criticism. I am more of a donator. I donate things, money (not much). I feel like what little time I have right now needs to go to my family but someday, like you, I hope to give more of myself in some way. I am thinking about volunteering for a kids mentoring organization in my area, though. You are assigned a student in need of adult companionship, and you meet with them at school for 1 hour a week. I've heard of some people being assigned kids in kindergarten and mentoring them through high school. I like that idea and I have an hour to give. Maybe your area has something similar?

    1. Yes, we do have a similar program. It's something I've thought about, but I don't know if it would be the best fit for me. It is an excellent program, though. Maybe I need to think about it some more. Donating is also good; I hadn't thought about it as helping people when I do it, I just want to reclaim some space in my house.

  10. Hi Jenny,

    Being born in England has helped me enormously. Although I'm disabled now I don't fear death like I used to. I say 'bring it on' which makes me sound braver than I am actually. I've faced every situation I can. I'm sure you have the knowledge that that is. I hope nobody else will have to experience what I do. It does take it out of you.Mind you, Cancer is the ultimate horror that can happen to any one of us. I've been lucky there but I feel for anyone affected by it.

    1. We are both lucky to live in free countries, aren't we? Health is something we can't control but if we have good health it is a gift. A good attitude, like yours, is also a good thing to have.

  11. Thank you so much. I looked, and looked for your Poetry Monday post. It didn't show up in my reader (and still doesn't). You asking whether I had seen it made me do some more exploration. To find a post which sings loudly to me.
    Where to start.
    Yes, I have some daily issues to face, but have been gifted with some major advantages. I was brought up to believe that I had an obligation to contribute to the community in which I live.
    I do. I volunteer on a telephone crisis line (and will have done so for twenty years next February), I provide supervision and additional support to other counsellors on the line. I offer peer support to other people with the dread disease, and I contribute food to the homeless at an early morning centre. Selected charities also get (small) donations).
    And all of these things make me rich.

    1. I'm glad you found this post, then, EC! You give back in many ways, despite the issues. Your comment that it makes you rich reminds me of the biblical quote - "it is more blessed to give than to receive". It really does do a person's heart good, doesn't it? And in the process, does so much other good, too. Thank you for your wise input.

  12. It was nice to see this post. I am not a poet to give here wonderful words. I usually use to enjoy the the thanks giving day!

  13. Thank you for sharing your personal struggles and I'm sorry for the passing of your dad. Never easy.


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