Monday, December 10, 2012

Because sometimes it's not all about you...

When I was in high school, our student council would take donations and adopt families via the Salvation Army for the holidays. Because the money was coming from students, it meant lots of loose change and I got quite adept at rolling the stuff. (a skill that still comes in handy) The SU advisor would tally up our collection and work with the SA to get as many families as we could provide a happy holiday for as possible. I always enjoyed working on that project, and my senior year was head of the fundraising committee. We raised enough for 25 families (a school record that still stands!) and it took 3 days of shopping and 3 days to make the deliveries.

I lost the habit of helping others after high school. Well, sort of lost. I would always stop and throw a few items in the canned food collection at the grocery store when I came across one, and I always dig into my pocket for donations to the Salvation Army bell ringers.

One year, working at Books-A-Million, I begged and pleaded with my coworkers to chip in and adopt a child from the Salvation Army. It took the addition of a prize of the homemade goodie of the winner's choice to get them to donate, but we collected $75 and I threw in $50 of my own and we got a teenage girl most of her wishlist. Our district manager won the raffle (I had no shame and hit up everyone for donations- got him on a random visit) and gave his prize to the bell ringer stationed at our store. (chocolate chip cookies if I remember correctly...)

After moving to Louisville, the independent bookstore where I worked collected books for various children's charities for the holidays. Well, of course I'm going to buy books for kids. EVERYONE should have books that wants them is one of my personal mottoes. And I continued to support food drives.

Then I started working for LMPD. The first year, I suggested to my coworkers that we adopt a child or do some other civic minded project. Louisville had lots of Hurricane Katrina refugees, so we contacted one of the shelters and adopted a displaced mother & son. My coworkers were all for the idea until it came time to contribute, and then it was like pulling teeth. It took pleading and a collection jar on the counter for the officers to help out, and even then my colleague J & I wound up putting in more of our own money than originally intended. But it was worth every dime and bit of stress to be able to fulfill their "needs" list and throw in quite a few "wants" as well. (Turns out that J & I were both power bargain shoppers)

After that experience, I decided not to bother with my coworkers any more. I try to adopt at least one kid a year, usually an older child because they often get overlooked. I still give to food drives, book drives, and for the last few years adopted a senior citizen from the giving tree at Wal-mart in honor of my late Gramma. Last year, instead of presents for my ingrate coworkers, I donated the money I would have spent on them to the food bank and to the First Reads program and plan to do it again this year.

This year, the department sent out an email from one of the children's home asking for help giving their kids a happy holiday. My parents & I had planned to do one anyway, so I requested one. Then, in a moment of insanity unbridled enthusiasm, I requested one for the office. I sent out a plea for donations, but expected to cover most of it myself. Much to my surprise, I got an overwhelmingly (for this place) positive response. Even better, I got actual cash from half my coworkers and the management! 

Mom went shopping with me and we had a blast. We bought tons of clothing and gift items for both of the 'angels' and still had money left. So, with the blessing of the home & my fellow donators, I bought an assortment of random clothing & gifts for the home to distribute as needed. We even had enough to throw in some gift wrapping supplies!

Reading back over this, it sounds like I'm blowing my own horn. That's not how I intended this piece to sound. I wanted to show that even in these days of excess, there are people out there who don't have it as good as most of us. Even the smallest donation can make an impact on someone's life. It's not about having the newest and flashiest gadgets, designer clothes, and biggest house. It's not about how cool you appear to be, because if you can't take a few minutes or spare a few dollars to help someone else, you're not that cool. We just helped make a 13 year old girl and a 12 year old boy feel like they're important enough for someone to care about them. They don't know who my coworkers, parents, & I are. They don't need to, because it's not about us. It's about THEM.

And you know what? That makes ME feel pretty darn good...

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