Giving is good, no matter why

Sometimes you help out of the goodness of your heart, and sometimes you help out of the terror that wakes you up at night.

This weekend, some co-workers and I will be shopping for a family that has fallen on particularly hard times. Not wealthy to begin with, they ended up taking in Aracely’s niece’s children — six of them, all younger than 7 — along with their own son. And a pallet maker’s wages only go so far.

I’m lucky to work for a company that believes strongly in philanthrophy and charitable works; “accept social responsibility” is among our eight values. Our charity committee has provided the money we’ll use to buy these kids clothing, and the whole family food, blankets, books and toys. (Several teams are doing the same thing for other families, and each team delivers its items on Sunday.)

I’m also volunteering at a separate event Saturday morning, packing backpacks full of food for needy families as part of Kitchen on the Street. (As long as they don’t make me discuss God or, heaven forbid, “plant the seed of Christ in Arizona children” — their words! not mine! — we’ll be fine.)

“Most of the food will be of the open-and-eat variety,” our local organizer said. “Many of the families don’t have ovens or stoves.” It took me a long time to wrap my head around that. And sometimes even now, when I try to fathom such a situation, it’s almost like I’m imagining a strictly fictional scenario. Who doesn’t have a stove?

Well, whose neighbors thought their house was worth breaking into because they received a hand-me-down couch? (This is why our largesse in our Sunday delivery is, largely, relegated to necessities such as food and clothing. Even a used TV would set them up to be a target.)

It’s a reminder of how lucky we’ve been. (I don’t think “blessed” is quite fair to those in more trying circumstances. You suffer … because God likes someone else more?) Even while facing adversities, most of us have strong support systems to fall back on. We haven’t had to rely on a food bank. We’ve lived in a place with a stove.

We’ve kept our teeth.

One of the worst dreams I’ve had (and not just once) involved realizing that my teeth were falling out — having them shatter and crumble like the top of a crème brûlée just from the pressure of my tongue feeling around, like “what’s going on in there?” I woke up panicky — the dream had felt so real that I was afraid to go look to make sure everything was OK, so instead I laid in the dark and gingerly touched my tongue to each tooth, verifying it was still intact.

So I was vaguely horrified to read about a friend of a friend (… of a friend, actually) who has suffered incredible side effects after being overprescribed a medication. (If the word “abscess” frightens you, by all means do not click on the LiveJournal pics link in her Nov. 6 post.) A low-level infection basically made her teeth toxic, so at the end of October all of her upper ones were yanked out in a hospital dental clinic.

I have never met Jennifer Brewster — and her Facebook profile picture has her voluntarily wearing a sizeable amount of blue eye shadow, so I don’t know if I want to meet her.  (Maybe it’s an homage to Siouxsie Sioux, and then I would cut her extra slack.) I only know she is 38 years old, on disability and now needs to buy dentures. I can’t don’t want to imagine what that would be like, and so I donated to her cause on ChipIn. (As of tonight, she’s at 79% of her goal.) I’d never posit my dread/terror combo cocktail as the most noble reason for helping someone out — but I’m sure she will appreciate it nonetheless if she’s able to chew something by Christmas.

I respect Jennifer — and Aracely, and the Kitchen on the Street families — because they asked for assistance. (Yes, I believe in trying to solve problems yourself, but there should be no shame in asking for help when you truly need it.)  I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of that for a while. And as long as others can help, I hope they do so.

(Climbs off soapbox, segues into clothing choices.)

WHAT SAM WORE: 11-18-09
“Crewneck Week” has been amended to “Sweater Week,”
due to lack of interest. And lack of crewnecks.
The shirt: Argyle V-neck from Old Navy.
Underneath: Same T-shirt as yesterday.
The pants: Baby blue boot-cut cords by Lucky, from Last Chance.
The shoes: Leather sneakers by Skechers, from Last Chance.
The scent: Grain de Plaisir by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier.
(“You smell like … celery!” one of my old co-workers said.)
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