Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some little things you can try...

Hey all! We hope and wish that everyone is having a good start to the Christmas season.

I don't think that we need to remind anyone that this has been a really rough year for a lot of people. The worst year in a lot of people's lives. Many people out there don't even have the basics. Even though I have been unemployed for a year now, we are still very blessed. We have each other, our home, our animals, food, clothes, heat. We have everything we need and more.

Other's are not so fortunate. 1000's of people, in Oregon alone, have lost their jobs and homes. Many feel alone and without hope. All they want for Christmas is to feel safe and warm. To feel that there are people out there who care about them and their families. To feel a little hope. As friends, neighbors, and strangers we can, in this season of giving, tell them in no uncertain terms that YES, we do care. To remind them that we are here for them, as we hope they would be for us. Those of us with an abundance can share with those who are going without. We can remake this world as it should be.

Here are just a few things that Michelle and I are doing to try and help those in need. These suggestions go for anyone that you know or see that needs help. Perhaps a neighbor who lost their job and is struggling, or a family member who needs a little help. That homeless person that you drive by everyday on your way to work. A co-worker that you know has fallen on rough times. They all are deserving and they all could use some compassion. And, if you think that the donation might be embarrassing for the person (especially a neighbor or co-worker), leave a bag of clothes or food on their doorstep or on their desk when they are away. It's so very hard to ask for help, but it is so very appreciated when it comes. Here are a few ideas:

Cleaning out the closets. Grab any socks, hats, gloves, jackets, pants, shirts, etc. that you don't use anymore. Put them in bags in the back of your car. Anytime you see someone on the street that looks cold or wet or under dressed, pull over and offer them some clothes. We promise they will be more thankful than you can imagine.

Clean out your pantry. You know those boxes and cans of food that sit in your cupboard month after month? Pull them out and offer them to someone who needs some food. Again, this could be a friend, relative, neighbor or even a stranger. If you don't know anyone that could use the food or if you are uncomfortable handing it out, please donate your extra food to a food bank. There are tons of them in the area. Here's a link to a list of food donation places in the Portland area.

If you know of someone that is having a really rough year or someone who might spend the holiday alone, invite them to your home for Christmas. Nothing could be more about the spirit of the holidays than sharing your home with someone who doesn't have a place to go. It's a pretty cool feeling!

Maybe you just cleaned out your closets and you don't really have any "extra" food in the pantry. You can always take a few extra dollars (if you have them) and go shopping for food, clothes or toys to donate. To make your dollar really stretch, try shopping at places like the Grocery Outlet or another bargain store. Or maybe stop by a second hand store and pick up some clothes or toys to give away. For people that have nothing, even second hand is a tremendous gift.

Donate new or used dog/cat food and toys to a local pet shelter (or again, to someone you know that might be struggling). We donate a lot of doggy items and food to F.I.D.O (Friends Involved in Dog Outreach). Here's a link to their wish list this year (Click here). Or, another great program to donate to is the Feral Cat Coalition. Of course there are many other great animal shelters that could use some help.

Another great way to help people is, obviously, to volunteer your time. This time of year is a great chance for families to volunteer together. A local food bank or soup kitchen is a great reminder for people (especially children) to truly appreciate everything that they have in their lives. It really makes an impression on you when you see another human being that has absolutely nothing. And of course this year, there are more people than ever in the food bank and soup kitchen lines.

And the last suggestion is just a little one. It's something that we have done over the past few years, and it's effects are quite remarkable. Next time you are at the grocery store, pick up a box or bag of small candy canes (or full size candy canes, if you prefer). Keep them on you at all time throughout the month. Every time you are out and about (i.e. grocery or gift shopping) take a look around you and see who looks like they could use a smile. Walk over to that person, hand them a candy cane and tell them "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" or whatever you wish to say. It really is amazing how many people stop and smile. Okay, at first, they might look at you like you're a little bonkers but then they take the candy cane, smile and walk away a little happier than they were before you walked over to them. It's a blast.

There are so many ways to spread hope. Gifts and toys are wonderful, but if you can actually give someone a little hope, it's worth all the toys in Santa's sleigh.

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