Thursday, January 14, 2010

Charitable Giving

As a general rule, I don't give money to people with extended hands. Years ago, during the holiday season, I thought it clever to drop a small candy cane into the cup; festive, refreshing and somewhat practical. Assuming those asking didn't have ready access to money, and food and dental hygiene, peppermint was a true gift back to the community, until the teeth began to rot from the sugar. My holiday generosity was halted when the candy cane was hurled back at me in protest of its non monetary value. To note, candy canes are hard and when cold and thrown with force, weaponry.

In my early commuting days soliciting was allowed on the trains. One long and cold ride home found me between a man selling candy bars for his church group and a very smelly man who honestly admitted he wanted money to buy beer. With thoughts of only the greater good, and just a bit of dreamy silence, I bought a candy bar, sent an underprivileged kid to church camp, and handed my purchase over to the smelly guy looking for an Old Style. He threw it, with an arm that could be used at Wrigley this summer, he wound up and projected that Snickers the entire length of the train, and then called me a name, not my given name, not a nice name. My years of selfless giving were over.

Now, once a month, the girls and I make sandwiches for the homeless lunch program at church. Still recovering from all the confectionery launched at me over the years, I prefer to make my contributions in a safe environment, with things far less lethal, and noticeably softer, than propelled candy. Sandwiches made by five year old children are inconsistent and loaded with everything they can get their hands on, assumably quite delectable to those who may not have had many a good, and thick, sandwich in recent days. I have visions of them opening the bags and finding not one slice, not seven, but a bizarre amount of turkey and ham and cheese, the most wonderful pile of food ever assembled, and I think of those who have shunned my goodwill in years past, and I smirk, rather unkindly.

Last month, as we delivered the sandwiches, Kate asked if she might ever be one of the recipients of our lunch generosity. In classic Mother over think, I rambled on about the uncertainty of life and the true meaning of giving. While it is less than likely that she might ever find herself in a place where a sloppily crafted pile of lunch meat eaten outdoors in truly cold weather might sound appealing, for unknown reasons I thought it best to prepare my five year old for the possibility that she may find herself out of work one day, or without health care, or social security, that there are no guarantees, and that we must always be grateful for what we have and the opportunities we are given.

"Oh, I just thought those sandwiches looked pretty good".

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