Yesterday, a successful grown woman told me a story. I’ll call her Annie. To look at her, no one would suspect she had encountered anything but a good life. Professional, well-spoken, and respected in her field, she has always seemed a friendly and loving person but “put together,” meaning she has her life in order.
Annie told me about a Thanksgiving in her childhood when a strange man came up to her house and dropped off a sack of food. She didn’t know who it was, and she never saw him again. She didn’t even learn his name.
Annie started to cry as she told me, “Later, my mom told me that our food stamps had run out for the month and we had no food in the house. We literally had not one thing to eat. She called a local church, desperate, and they found someone willing to donate food so we could eat on Thanksgiving.”
I didn’t hold her hand, but it was because I wanted to respect her emotional space. I wanted to hug her, to wipe away her tears, or to pat her hand. Instead, I bobbed my head in agreement as Annie came to her final point.
“When we talk about being kind and giving to others, we usually mean our family and friends. How many people are willing to give to a complete stranger? That one act changed my entire life. He didn’t end world hunger or cure cancer, but he changed my whole world for the better.”
Yesterday, the entire nation filled social media with “Giving Tuesday,” an initiative to stamp out some of the greedy, crass commercialism of the holidays and replace it with a focus on what’s most important.
Today (I know, it’s really Wednesday instead of Tuesday, but work with me), I’d like you to help me make a difference.
Making a difference is not just about money! We can:
- offer to help someone
- offer friendship
- stick up for someone who has been treated unfairly
- listen to someone who is lonely
- rethink our prejudices
- bite our tongue when tempted to speak harshly
- open our hearts to someone who is not like us
Please choose one or more of the following options (or come up with your own idea) and tell us in the comments how you will make a difference today.
(Disclaimer: I chose causes that I have long supported and/or that have come up during the first few days of Advent Calendar discussions. It is not exhaustive. If a cause that you hold dear is not in this list, please add it in your comment!)
- Read about Invisible People, an outreach program for people who live without a home.
“Since its launch in November 2008, InvisiblePeople.tv has leveraged the power of video and the massive reach of social media to share the compelling, gritty, and unfiltered stories of homeless people from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. The vlog (video blog) gets up close and personal with veterans, mothers, children, layoff victims and others who have been forced onto the streets by a variety of circumstances. Each week, [they’re] on InvisiblePeople.tv, and high traffic sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, proving to a global audience that while they may often be ignored, they are far from invisible.”
- Learn more about Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia at Alzheimer’s Association. If you have a loved one with dementia, consider using a registry such as MedicAlert: Safely Home (Canada) or MedicAlert: Safe Return (US). For $62 plus $35 annual renewal fee, your loved one will be entered in a national, 24/7, generator-backed-up, worldwide-recognized database complete with his or her medical/personal history, emergency numbers, and a hotline should he or she ever wander off or get lost. The information hotline operators could not be more professional, helpful, or reassuring.
- Read about this mom’s experience with taking her autistic child trick-or-treating and coming to terms with her parenting of a child with special needs. Sometimes it’s nothing about money and everything about compassion.
- Watch this video (“Silver Line Caller: Not Lonely Anymore”) about Silver Line (UK and Scotland), a program where volunteers call elderly folks, especially those who are isolated, to chat and offer friendship. (Thank you to Ami Starsong for making me aware of this organization.)
- Consider purchasing an item on the registry for Lost-N-Found Youth, an Atlanta, Georgia (US) organization that helps LGBT youth who are on the streets. Read more about their objectives on their website. You do not have to live in Atlanta to donate; you can buy an item online at My Registry (click on the first link) to have it shipped to Lost-N-Found Youth. (Thank you to Jade Crystal for contributing #5 and #6.)
- Consider purchasing an item on the Amazon registry for the Ali Forney Center (New York City, US). Learn more about their work on their website, and find resources in fifteen other areas in the US.
- Learn more about organ and tissue donation, and consider registering (driver’s license registration is not enough). If you have registered as an organ or tissue donor, tell your family of your wishes. They will have final say.
- Make a living will. Don’t know what it is or why you need one? Read this article by the Mayo Clinic. You are never too young to make a living will (at least if you are old enough to read this blog!), and laying out your wishes in a clear form will make things easier on your loved ones should anything happen to you. 18-year-olds can (heaven forbid) become paralyzed in accidents or slip into comas. It may be hard to think about the end of your life, but your family will appreciate knowing your wishes when the time comes.
- Read about the work of Covenant House Toronto. (Thank you to Michelle B. for the Canadian links.)
- Consider donating to SickKids Foundation (Canada).
- Browse through this list of charity organizations in Canada.
- Read this list of “Random Acts of Kindness for Kids,” a list of ways for kids (and adults!) to do something nice for others. One of my favorites: Sit with someone new at lunch today. We all can appreciate someone sharing a meal with us.
- Read or re-read Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, one of the great authors of children’s fiction. It’s a wonderful story of a little girl whose family manages to survive through Dad losing his job and the children worrying whether their parents will be able to take care of them. During this season of overspending and appallingly spoiled children, reading Ramona and Her Father is a breath of fresh air. For those of us who are struggling financially (especially when children are involved), it’s a way to take comfort.
- Read or re-read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, another book about three young children growing up in genteel poverty. Their struggles to make life interesting and worthwhile never fail to put a smile on my face.
- Read about the creation of Luna, the story of a girl who was born a boy, and how people have been killed because of their sexual identity.
- Learn more about and/or consider donating to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (US). This comprehensive site offers a hotline, informational posts, support, and other resources for those who have been affected by sexual mistreatment. One of their recent public education campaigns was to discourage “rapeface” as a social media joke.
- From Tara Finnegan:
Here there is a Christmas shoebox appeal, and you fill a shoe box with things like soap toothbrushes, underwear, sweets and toys and these get sent to places outside Ireland, to children who get nothing else, We do this in November, in the hope the parcels will arrive near Christmas http://secure.teamhope.ie/csa
- Volunteer, sign up to foster, or donate to your local Humane Society or SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
- Check out this website (courtesy of Michelle B): https://abusehurts.com/
- From Tracey Horton:
Contact your local schools. The school nurse knows the families in need. They will tell you ages and if it is a boy or girl. They will do it anonymously.
Also during summer vacation remember the hungry. A lot of kids get free breakfast and lunch at school. When summer comes they are at home and they don’t have the food. Your local food shelf needs spaghetti O’s, peanut butter, jelly, Mac and cheese. Stuff like that.
Won’t you make a difference today? Go and do it right now, and come back to let us know how it went.
P.S. A special note: Please keep Ria and her family in your prayers and thoughts today.
Today, my family is preparing an intervention for one of my siblings. They are flying in from abroad and across the US. Mental abuse is so very hard to overcome. Thankfully, no children are involved. We have prepared a place for her (furnished with ongoing support). Our challenge is to make her believe how very loved she is and to support her in all her decisions now and in the future. She knows she is loved but does not believe she is worth it. Pray for us!!
Artwork by Penelope Hasler