(Warning: long post ahead! It’s important and worth the read, though.)
Since it’s December, I’ve started getting questions about what sorts of things I might want for my birthday. Most years, I’d mention a record, a book, a DVD, or maybe even a cherry sunburst Les Paul if I was feeling particularly hopeful/impish. This, however, is not most years.
You know the story; hell, you’re likely living it. The economy has been falling apart for a few years (despite government reports only discovering that this past Monday), and people are losing their homes, jobs, and way of life. We’re all trying to figure out how to pay for the essentials and live our lives in even a semblance of a recognizable manner.
More than any of the other basics, people are truly struggling to get one thing: food. You remember, from social studies in elementary school? The needs of life: food, clothing and shelter. These are the things we must have to even survive.
There are’t many immediate things I can do to ensure that people have homes (small steps at altering our social structure are all I’ve got there); I’ve given away a lot of my clothing (but will give away more in the next few weeks); that leaves food.
I’m guessing (and hoping) that most of you reading this have a post-Thanksgiving refrigerator that looks like mine – packed with containers of leftovers. The fact that we got to have the huge holiday meal itself to beget the leftovers is a pretty huge blessing in itself, especially given the times. Food banks have seen the number of people they must feed up by 1/3 in the past few months, senior centers have had to turn away increasing numbers of the elderly who are in more need of help than ever, and soup kitchens faced such increases in visitors during Thanksgiving that they had to tap into their Christmas stock in a time when they’re already running very short on supplies. People have fewer options this year, and with new companies failing every day, even those few options are fading away.
These are not faceless folks you’ve never met. These are your co-workers, neighbors, your friends, maybe even your family. These are folks that would help you if something went wrong in your life. Leaving them to fail cannot be an option; only evil can result from allowing these friends to fall. (Perhaps today would be entirely different if these men had been helped before they became desperate?) We have watched so very many things we relied on daily fail us these past few years: government agencies, banks, companies, newspapers. We simply cannot afford to fail each other.
As I’ve noted here before numerous times, I return often to Kurt Vonnegut’s assertion from his Blues for America “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
So, I ask that anyone who planned on getting me a birthday gift and/or a Christmas gift to please spend their time, energy and money ensuring people in your community have food instead. That would be the absolute best gift you can give me.
While I will include some links to local Seattle organizations for those of you nearby, I ask that those of you not in Seattle to give food, or time, or money, or all three, to the places near you that are helping to feed those that need help. Call your local food bank, and ask what food items they need most. Stop in and talk to the folks at your neighborhood soup kitchen and see how you can help. Drop off food, send a check, take a volunteer shift. Find a way to help, and a level of help, that makes sense to you.
For example, I personally looked around and found that Seattle’s Meals On Wheels/Mobile Market and West Seattle Food Bank really spoke to me. I’ve made donations to both, including getting a small automatic monthly withdrawal set up for the food bank. I’m trying to narrow down an organization I can volunteer with a few hours a week. It doesn’t feel like near enough, but I hope it’s an okay start. Any tiny amount will make a difference for someone, somewhere.
The only thing I ask is that you leave a comment on this post, or drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know what you find out when working with whichever organization you choose to help, and what your experience is like in getting food to those who need it. It will help us all see what the reality is for our country and all of us living in it. After all, we could be the ones needing help at any moment.
And, as an added bonus — no wrapping paper or trudging through malls needed!
As promised, for all of you Seattle readers, here are some links that may help you narrow down where you’d like to help:
(Also, like their people, pets are having a tough time finding food, too. The Seattle Humane Society Holiday Food Drive is another option, as is the Senior Center’s program for helping the elderly keep their pets fed.)
Thanks in advance for such a fantastic present! It’s just what I wanted.
All the very best,
P.S. Don’t worry! Just because I’ve requested this for myself, doesn’t mean that you won’t get the usual, nicely wrapped gifts from me. That said, if you’d prefer I not buy you a present, but would rather have me donate money/time to a cause, do write me at the address above, and let me know, okay?