Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How To Give To The Poor and How to Receive With Grace When You Are Struggling

This is a long title, but I didn't want to come off as ungrateful towards those who have helped me. Because I am. But there's an elephant in the room when it comes to giving to those who are struggling financially and are at the bottom rung of society's ladder. People, stop donating your expired food out of your cabinet. Quit passing on off-brand junk you wouldn't eat and expect the person in need to feel grateful for it. Be thoughtful when you pass on hand me downs and other items. Please stop giving poor people your trash.

I made up a box of some off-brand mac and cheese someone gave us the other night. My son and I couldn't eat it. It didn't even taste like mac and cheese. Someone else gave us a bag of canned goods, most of it expired. My sweet neighbor recently brought over two boxes of some weirdly flavored soup his mom had picked up at a food pantry to be passed on. 24 cans of it. It's sitting in my garage. It has beef in it. We are vegetarian.

Now, I'm not going to be rude to the giver. That's why I say you should receive with grace. I smiled at him and thanked him for his help and generosity. It's the right thing to do. And there were some items in the box, like snack-sized boxes of raisins, that definitely was a help.

So, coming from someone who has needed a hand up one too many times, I just want to give you some pointers on giving with heart. One, take the time to find out what the person you are helping likes to eat. Include some fresh foods, even if it's just a bunch of bananas. One of the most generous and heartfelt offerings I've ever received was from another single mom who brought me a crate of fresh fruits and vegetables.  If you are buying a couple of items to drop into a food collection bin, buy foods you would want to eat. And for goodness sake, don't go purging your cabinet of outdated food and pass it on. If nothing else, give money and trust that the person receiving will put it to his or her best use.

If you are thinking of passing on used clothing or household items, consider these tips. If it is well worn or has a small stain or tear, don't donate it. I don't mind being given used items that I need that someone else is ready to let go of. When it's in good condition. I've gained plenty of things that I didn't have the money to buy that way. I've also had people pass on their junk to me. Uhm, thanks?

In our society, lower class people are supposed to be grateful for anything they are given. Even if it is worn out, expired, cast off from someone else. But here's what you are doing when you give those kinds of things. You are reminding that person that they are last on the rung. You are telling them that they are less than and ought to be grateful for any scraps they are given. You are in a sense throwing scraps to the hog. You are perpetuating the poverty mindset that is so prevalent in society.

Society says, well if you are really that poor then you'll just shut up, be grateful, and eat it whether you like it or not. Society says you aren't good enough for anything else. Maybe if you worked harder and pulled yourself up from your bootstraps,  you'd be able to eat food that you enjoy and wear clothes that weren't tattered hand me downs. Society says something is wrong with you.

If you are struggling and someone shows up at your door with a bag of food or items they think may somehow be useful to you, say thank you. Be grateful. But it doesn't mean you have to accept their offering if it's something you won't eat or use. Giving and receiving is a two-way street and it needs to be done thoughtfully and kindly. After all, most times they do mean well even if the giving is misplaced.

Basically, dear readers, just be thoughtful in your giving and your receiving. You want your giving to be uplifting to the person you are reaching out to. Not a reminder of how hard they are struggling. If you are receiving, be honest about your needs. You don't have to blindly accept everything that is given to you because society demands otherwise. Let your needs be known. But be grateful that someone reached out to you, and be kind. Always be kind.

Friday, November 3, 2017

What I Have Learned While Walking my Son to School

The drop-off and pick-up line at my son's school is a winding nightmare of tired parents and car exhaust. I get that some don't live a comfortable walking distance and some are in a rush to or from work. For some, it may be physically impossible for them to walk their kids to and/or from school. But even those that live a reasonable walking distance to the school seem to drive instead. I pass the same two or three parents on foot every morning when I walk my son to school.

I've gained a lot from walking my son to school. Not only do we get to spend precious time together, but we are also moving our bodies. It sets a positive tone for our day. We talk about things he's interested in. We act silly We observe what's going on around us. He holds my hand, a precious act I know he may soon grow out of. And when we get to the school I can give him an unhurried goodbye because I don't have a line of cars behind me, impatiently waiting to drop their kids off. I think it's very important to set a positive tone for the day for our kids to help them succeed, and taking the time to walk him to school does just that.

I stop and get to know the crossing guards on the way back home. Now that my schedule has changed and I mostly work from home, having that adult contact is awesome. But even when I was walking back home to hop in the car and drive to work, I enjoyed slowing down and talking to these very important people keeping our children safe. I wouldn't want their job. People driving through stop signs, on their cell phones, just totally unaware of their surroundings, driving too fast. They put up with a lot.

Walking him to school allows me to observe our neighborhood in a way I don't have time for when I am driving. I can pick up on which kids are struggling at home. I get to see the delight in the kids walking home when the unharvested kumquat tree is full of ripe fruit. I can actually look into the eyes of other walking parents and give them a warm greeting. Occasionally we may get chased by the chihuahua that regularly escapes her backyard. She's an annoying little ankle biter. We get to really know our neighborhood.

I see a lot of newer neighborhoods building schools where it is just plain unsafe for kids to walk to school. The schools are built around buses and cars. This, to me, is sad. It's a missed opportunity for community and parent/child connections, for slowing down and really seeing your neighborhood.

If you have the opportunity, walk your kid to school. Slow down your mornings. Bond with your child. Get some exercise. Observe your neighborhood with fresh eyes. Not to mention the environmental impact that you will be making by not starting up your car.