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The Season of Giving

I had been planning on writing a post this weekend reminding everyone to think about organizations in their communities who help the less fortunate.  Especially at this time of year it’s nice to help put food on the table of someone who might not have enough for daily sustenance, let alone a special holiday meal. 
I had been thinking about this whole "giving" idea quite a lot lately as I’d been hearing a lot about donor "fatigue".  You may have heard about it in your community, too.  It’s what they are calling the drop in donations to local causes and organizations.  They believe it’s because there have been so many catastrophes this year and many people have been donating right and left to tsunami victims, earthquake victims, hurricane victims and all this on top of rising prices, especially anything impacted by fuel costs.  Donors are just worn out financially and, probably emotionally, from caring about so much, so often.  Yet the daily need in each community doesn’t go away just because catastrophes strike. 
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve also been talking to some folks about a work party at one of our local agencies, Northwest Harvest.  I try to organize work groups for them now and then but I haven’t organized a group for quite some time and was starting to float the idea with people.  Last Wednesday, at my friend T’s birthday gathering, I started talking about it in earnest with a few people I met that night and decided I’d better get on it as, in the past, it’s always taken me two to three months to get a weekend spot at the Northwest Harvest warehouse.  Especially around holiday time.  When I called the volunteer coordinator on Thursday and asked for a Saturday slot after the first of the year I was fully expecting that the earliest available dates would be late February or early March.  I was amazed to be offered January 7th or 14th!  And I could have had the Sundays, too.  And I had my choice of either the morning or afternoon spots! 
Has donor fatigue drifted into the volunteering efforts, too?  I don’t know, but I can see how it might happen.  And maybe this is just some little fluke but it made me incredibly sad to think that such a good agency might be suffering in many ways due to people just running out of funds and energy or at least feeling like they have. 
Then I had something sort of odd happen.  My furnace has been in need of a little repair and on Saturday when the repairman came to fix it he discovered it was much more serious than we first thought.  My heat exchanger is cracked which means I can’t run my furnace at all since that can cause carbon monoxide problems.  Tomorrow they will place an order for the part and (hopefully) it will be here later this week but by the time it’s all repaired and I have heat again it will be a week or more since I’ve been able to use my furnace.  I had one space heater and bought another so I can keep a couple of rooms warm but the rest of the house is very cold! 
So for the last two days I’ve been in this really weird mood.  I know that in a week or so I’ll have heat again but it kind of feels like I’ll never be totally warm again. And in reality it’s not all that bad but I want to lock myself in one room and curl up and conserve my energy.  And it’s causing me to feel a little depressed – I mean it’s the holidays and I can’t really do the things I want to do because most of the house is cold.  And then I started thinking about all the people who everyday must choose between food and heat because they don’t have funds for both. 
If I feel this way knowing that it will be fixed soon and that I have tons of other alternatives – friends I can stay with, the ability to buy a space heater at a moment’s notice; a warm car I can drive around in; I can work from anywhere with wireless access; I have two fireplaces and lot of wood – how must those people feel who don’t know when their situation will end and who don’t have other alternatives?  We sometimes wonder why people don’t do more to pull themselves up and out of bad situations.  But it’s those very situations that can have such a deep impact that many people feel powerless to do anything except work on surviving.  And that can take a lot of energy. 
So I encourage you to dig just a little deeper with either your time or your dollars to help a local cause in your area.  Many companies sponsor food drives this time of year – take a look in your pantry and I’ll bet you’ll find a few things to donate.  Some have giving trees – select a name and buy a little gift for that person.  Check with your church or a local food bank to see if they can use some help serving or distributing meals.  Talk to your friends to get a group together to contribute in some way.  If each of us does some little bit it will really add up. 
It’s the season of giving.  Let’s all do our part. 

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