Archive for February 24th, 2012

What Can I Do?

Whether one believes in an afterlife or not, presumably one wants to make a difference–for the better–in the world.

I wrote yesterday about choosing Amnesty International as my charity of the month. And it’s easy to get online and make a quick cash donation. And don’t get me wrong–that cash (if one can afford it) goes to do good works.

By the way–bear with me–this post may hop around a lot.

Yesterday I was reading the blog Margaret and Helen, and something Helen said really jumped out at me. She was referring, if I recall correctly, to having a neighbourhood get-together, and said that it’s important to know one’s neighbours. Too many people live in isolation, not knowing the names of even their closet neighbours. I can tell you that the night our house caught fire some people came over to talk to us (while others stood staring, which made me very uncomfortable and vaguely resentful), and I learned the name of the boy I’d been waving to every day for years. I was ashamed of myself. If I’d waved to him every day for years, why did I never once stop and talk to him? I always told Joe what a nice boy he was, but I never even knew his name. Cody. That’s his name. And he is a nice boy. Young man, now; he’s attending classes at the local community college. I haven’t seen him since the night of the fire–on the few occasions when I’ve gone to visit the house, I’ve hardly seen anyone. But I’ve thought that it would be fun, once we’re back home, to see if we can pull together a block party or something. A way for us to connect as neighbours, not just strangers who live on the same street.  (That would be totally separate from our house-cooling party, which I intend to hold once we’re back home.)

And then this morning I was also thinking of someone I met several weeks ago. She works in the administrative office of the local Big Brothers, Big Sisters organisation here.  And I’ve always meant to sign up to be a Big Sister, but never got around to it. I have now started the process, and hope that fairly soon I’ll be matched with a little sister, and can make the kind of difference in her life that others have made in mine.

And I thought about the play I helped write, “Las Mujeres de Juarez,” that told the stories of the women and girls who lost their lives, the families who lost mothers, sisters, and daughters, to the horrible murderers in Juarez, Mexico. I referred to it yesterday, when I was talking about Amnesty International.

Then I thought of animal rescue groups. All of the dogs we’ve adopted were rescue dogs. I’m so grateful to the organisations that find homes for abused animals, give them the medical treatment they need, and then find loving homes for them. When we adopted Emmylou, we actually had to fill out an application, with references and with the contact information for our vet. They checked with our vet before we were allowed to finalise the adoption and go pick her up.  Someone I know from work is a devoted cat lover, and every Saturday you can find him at the Petsmart closest to my house, working with a cat rescue group.

Money’s good. All of these groups can use money. It takes money to dig wells, to feed the hungry, to provide counseling to children who’ve lost their mothers, to treat sick animals. In the past I’ve made substantial (for me) donations to Susan G. Komen that will now be going to Planned Parenthood, who provides desperately needed medical attention for women in poverty, or who don’t have medical insurance.

But time is good, too. Just before my nephew Chase passed away, I was very excited at the prospect of providing respite care for his parents. I cannot tell you enough how much I love Chase, and still grieve for him every day. Sadly, he passed away and I didn’t get to see him before then. I waited too long. One of the charities I support is Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, who are desperately trying to find a cure, to provide health care and resources for people who suffer this terrible disease, to help the families. Then there are various groups who make dreams come true for terminally ill children. I can’t praise them highly enough.

So I have initiated an application with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  Maybe I’ll check out the volunteer opportunities at Amnesty International. I don’t know if there’s something that will fit into my insane schedule, but maybe there is. I won’t know until I try.

My company provides matching funds for cash donations up to $250. That means I can make a small donation every month this year, and it will be doubled. They also provide matching cash for hours spent volunteering, up to 250 hours. I appreciate that they do that. They recognize the importance not only of giving cash, but of giving time. Now I need to make the time part of it more important.

What about you? What charities do you support, either with time or money or both? What drew you to those charities?

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