Giving Where The Sidewalk Ends

When I was very young, my brother and I were watching the Jerry Lewis telethon on Labor Day weekend. The local news station had a big fish tank set up outside a hotel and was asking people to come drop off change to help the telethon. My brother and I begged my mom to drive us down there so we could dump the contents of our piggy bank – filled mostly with pennies – into the tank. She did. And I still remember how long it took to shake out all those pennies. What a great feeling that was.

My mom was a giver, and she raised me to be that way, too. Whenever any holiday came around, she reminded us to think about the people who were less fortunate than us. Even at Thanksgiving, it’s possible to donate a turkey to the local foodbank or help decorate your church for the meal they serve to the homeless.

As I write this, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I’ve been going through my house lately getting rid of stuff. I could take it all down to the ARC, but I know when they get too much stuff, they haul much of it to the local dump. So, I prefer to think a little harder to get things that are in good condition to those who really need them. One of the ways I like to do that is by putting up small displays of free items at the end of my driveway. Since it’s near Thanksgiving, I thought some people might want good-smelling candles, and I have a surplus of those! So, I put three nice ones out on an overturned cardboard box with a sign that said free. Then I waited. Within five minutes, the “winter scent” candle was gone. 15 minutes later the “mango” candle was gone, too. The green flowery candle was the last to go.

I like to imagine the lift people get when they take their afternoon stroll and find something fun and useful for free on the sidewalk. My favorite story is the time we put out a few small silk flower arrangements. My husband happened to walk outside as a twenty-something male on his bike (the last person I’d have expected to be interested) was stuffing one of the arrangements into his backpack. “Hey, thanks for the pretty flowers,” he said with a wave and a smile, as he cycled off.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for so many things, but I’m most grateful for the spirit of giving, the one thing that makes you happy whether you’re the one giving or the one receiving. After the hard and divisive year that was 2021, I hope the spirit of giving brings us all a little closer as we head into this holiday season. And it doesn’t have to be a big year-end cash donation or piles and piles of presents. Sometimes, it’s the little things, like a candle or a flower arrangement, that bring the most joy.

By Teresa R. Funke

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