Thursday, December 12, 2013

Update to 30 days of giving (12 days late)

The truth? I'm not sure I actually succeeded in giving something away for every day of November. I lost track of stuff and sometimes I considered counting some act of giving as part of my list but then reconsidered, believing some acts should just be reflexive and not viewed as generous but merely common, everyday occurrences. This lead me to question all of my acts of giving and wonder how meaningful they really were if they were done only for the purpose of tallying up 30 days of giving. And that thought just seemed depressing and sucked the joy out of what seemed like a good idea at the beginning of November. Oh, you silly obsessive brain.

So, anyway, here is what I did give away (in addition to the 4 items listed in the first blog post about 30 days of giving):

Check out the coolness of this toy
Playmobil crane (given away on Freecycle): this was an awesome toy that I bought for Martha when she was very young and crane was one of her early words she spoke and she also loved to see them and point them out in the car when we were driving around town. Playmobil toys, for those of you who aren't familiar with them, are these amazingly detailed, German-made plastic miniature toys, similar to legos but a little less blocky. The crane cost over $200 dollars but I bought it for my then-more-severely-affected daughter with autism because I was a desperate mother who wanted to nurture her child's developing brain. If you ever know a child with any kind of developmental delay or disorder, you might understand the logic behind a parent spending oodles and oodles of money to help their child, regardless of how stupid the object of the spending seems. Well, in the end, we constructed our crane, Martha never played with it, I tried to sell it at a garage sale with no success and it sat in our mud room for a few more years until finally, I gave it away. Free. A $200 toy. But totally worth it to have the box gone from my house.

Plastic baby gate (Freecycled): I saw an ad for a gal wanting baby gates for her apartment because she wanted to start fostering dogs and needed to corral her new guests. Obviously, I support anyone who is helping dogs and the baby gate I gave away had this system for being secured in a doorway that my daughter was too impatient to figure out, so it collected dust in my basement instead.

Two bags of kids clothing and winter gear (given to a local organization that helps families in need): When you're raising a child, it seems to me there is a never-ending stream of clothing that no longer fits. Never-ending, I tell you.

Books (given to a neighborhood Little Free Library): This is one of the items I gave away and then thought maybe it was lame to include in my list of giving. I'm including it anyway.

1 lb. of coffee (donated at a local coffee shop): I went in to buy myself a cup of coffee and the kid at the cash register asked if I'd donate a pound of coffee, supposedly to U.S. Troops abroad. I did it. I needed to beef up my list but it also seemed like a fine idea.

9 monetary donations made to various non-profit organizations in Minnesota: A few years back Minnesota started this "Give to the Max Day" where people can make online donations to a wide variety of schools or non-profit organizations. I like it because I can do my donations all in one day, I don't have to field annoying calls from solicitors all year round and I don't have to remember when I gave last to some group. Somehow the number of groups I give to keeps growing. This year I donated to Secondhand Hounds (the rescue group I foster for), Pet Haven (rescue group that my former dog, Carson, came from), Leech Lake Legacy & Red Lake Rosie's Rescue (two groups that help round up dogs on reservations in Minnesota and provide low-cost spay/neuter clinics and immunizations). I also gave to the Friends of Hennepin County Library, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, People for Pride in Living, St. Louis Park Emergency Program, and Second Harvest Heartland. Dogs, books, homes and help for those less fortunate; these are things that matter to me.

Volunteer time, 3 different days: Twice I shelved books in the Media Center at my daughter's school, which is kind of the equivalent of pretending I still have my job from last year; one day I helped out in Martha's classroom.

Unbelievably cute dog treats
Howl-iday Hat dog treats: these were gifts I sent to my sister and two friends for their respective dogs, Chipper, Beijing, Luci, Sadie and Zelda (who used to be my foster dog). Is this 3 gifts given to 3 people? Or five gifts given to five dogs? I'm counting it as 3 gifts so as not to appear like I'm trying to cheat.

Donations to two dog rescue groups made as a result of my purchase of Howl-iday Hat treats from Treat Me Right, an organization that makes healthful treats for dogs and donates a portion of their sales to various animal welfare groups.

Several turtlenecks I passed on to my sister from my own closet: In order to understand the significance of this act of giving you need to understand my older sister. She wears the piss out of her clothes, which is both virtuous but also kind of sad. It's virtuous because she does not end up spending money on clothes she doesn't need and it makes her seem very thrifty and reduces her carbon footprint. However, it is sad because she is a grown woman with a professional job and she is still wearing items of clothing from the 80s because they simply will not die. The turtlenecks hadn't had much action in my own wardrobe lately, so I entrusted them to Cindi. It really was a charitable act on my part.

So that's what I accomplished in the actual month of November. That's either 27 or 29 items depending on how you count the dog treat gifts. You can see what I mean when I say I wasn't truly successful with my original pledge. I wasn't even going to bother with a blog update.

But I gave one more thing to a stranger yesterday that made me decide I was ready to write about my experience with intentional giving.

Yesterday morning it was about zero degrees outside and I was shoveling my sidewalk before Martha left to catch the bus. A teenaged boy who I'd never seen before came down the street and asked me if the bus to Edina High School had come by yet. I'm not positive when the bus for the high school comes by but I told him I was pretty sure it had come and gone already (it had). He was a tall, slender, African-American kid, dressed only in sweatpants, t-shirt and a light jacket. He had no gloves or hat and his hands were stuffed into his pants pockets but he kept taking them out periodically to blow on them to keep them warm. I asked if he lived nearby and he said he lived a block away, across a busy street which is the boundary between my suburb of Edina and the city of Minneapolis. He usually catches the bus by his house, he said, but he had stayed up late the night before, overslept, and missed his bus.

So I asked him, tentatively, did he want me to drive him to school. I said I'd be happy to take him because I was sure there was no bus coming but I didn't want to seem creepy. I'm not sure if housewives/moms in sweatpants shoveling snow can really pull off creepy, but you never know how this sort of offer might be perceived. He accepted. Once my daughter was on her way to school we walked back to my garage and set off for the high school. The roads were icy and snowy and the traffic was not great so we had some time to chat. His name was Abdi and he's a junior in high school. I asked him about college (he has many in mind) and he told me about his high school football career and torn ACL. He seemed like a nice kid and he reminded me a bit of my 18-year old nephew. If he was my child waiting around in the frigid weather with no gloves, I would hope that someone would look out for him.

When I dropped him at school I told him that I walked my dog around the neighborhood all the time so maybe there was a chance I would see him. I added that I felt like I should meet his mother so she would know who the strange lady was who drove her son to school. He laughed and said she'd probably be mad if she knew a strange lady drove him to school (I appreciated that he basically just referred to me as a "strange lady"). He said he'd just tell his mom that he caught the bus. And then I realized that the reason he accepted my ride was probably to avoid having to slink home and ask his mom for a ride to school, which would, most likely, also make her mad. So I gave him a ride and a pass on incurring mom's wrath.

On my drive home I thought about the 30 days of giving because a ride was one possible thing I thought I could give to someone but the opportunity did not present itself in the month of November. As soon as I wrote the initial blog about giving in November, I realized that December is also an opportune month for giving, it being prime holiday season and all, and I considered trying for 60 days of giving (or, okay, 61 days to be exact). But then I had another idea. Instead of keeping a contrived list of the things I give for a finite period of time, I can also just give any time of the year, as needed. My new friend Abdi might need a ride some other month of the year. Charitable organizations need my daughter's hand-me-downs regardless of the season. My daughter's school always needs my time. And it's not just that the need exists all the time. My ability to give is fairly constant, as well. It appears to be kind of my "thing," it's what I do. I am the go-to gal! Because I can be.

So yes, give thanks at Thanksgiving, give extra at the holidays, but most importantly, just give what you can, whenever you can. And you can almost always give something. If nothing else, give kindness. Or a fist bump. Someone will appreciate it.

1 comment:

  1. Sadie and Zelda loved the santa hat cookies! Luci is still carrying hers around and hiding them throughout Debbie's house - I'm not sure if she's actually eaten one though (they are very precious!).