So this is the last day of 2018. I’m okay with that. 2018 has been a beast, but I’m full of hope for 2019.
As the year ends, my email inbox is loaded with pleas for money from charities and literary organizations. Last chance! Match these funds! Help us meet our goal! We can’t survive without you! I know that most literary magazines and writers’ organizations survive on volunteers and pin money, but I can’t give to everybody. They all make me feel guilty and uncaring. If the literary magazine goes under, it’s my fault. If the podcast goes silent, it’s on me. Know what I mean?
By the time I finish writing this page, I will have received five more emails asking for money. They all imply that if they don’t get it by midnight, something dreadful will happen. No. We’ll all be just as poor in the morning.
I get requests for money in the mail, too. This morning I threw away a plea from the local hospital and from the National Parks Conservation Association. I want the hospital to thrive. I love our national parks (And I hate that they are suffering under the current ridiculous government shutdown). I have tossed out pleas from the blind and the paralyzed, from veterans and Native Americans. Some of these agencies send me “gifts:” calendars, return address labels, greeting cards, tote bags, and more. Then they send me bills, asking whether I have gotten around to paying for those “gifts” yet. I don’t want them, I didn’t ask for them, and I don’t have to pay for them, but oh the guilt.
A year or so ago, I resolved to stop trying to give to everyone and focus my charitable giving on my church, feeding the hungry, and Alzheimer’s Disease, the cruel malady that took my husband. Once in a while, if I know the people involved and they really need help, I will contribute to a GoFundMe campaign. But I have to be stingy there, too. I might chip in for cancer treatment, but I’m not going to fund someone’s new house or trip to Europe.
Have you noticed the new Facebook practice of linking people’s birthdays to charity giving? It’s no longer enough to offer a loving “Happy birthday!” Now I have to give to their charity, too? Stop! Let me love you without getting out my credit card.
I sound like such a Grinch. But I’m not a mean person. I just feel that spreading my limited funds in a million directions doesn’t really help anyone.
Besides, there are lots of needs that don’t involve money. My aunt put it well the other night when we were talking about my dad. At 96, living alone, chained to a walker and unable to drive, he needs lots of help these days. Paid caregivers do things like cook meals, clean the house, and take him to the grocery store, the bank, or the pharmacy. But what he needs most of all, she said, is company. He needs someone to sit and listen to his stories, to make him feel not alone. That’s all. Just spend time with him.
Honestly, I need that too sometimes. The world is full of lonely people who just need someone to make them feel less alone, to show that someone cares. I will continue to delete and shred most of the pleas for money that come my way, but I want to reach out more, especially to those who are alone.
I have been working on writing something about people like me who are going through life as a party of one. But you don’t have to be a writer to notice the old man eating at the Pig n Pancake by himself, the woman with just a few items in her shopping cart at Fred Meyer, or the person who sits in church alone every week. If nothing else, smile, offer a hand, strike up a conversation. That’s worth more than all the free calendars in the world.
I hope and pray our new year is full of good things. After a couple weeks of storms, the sun is shining in South Beach this morning. I’m hopeful.
MY GIFT TO YOU: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 31 and mention that you read this blog post, and I will send you a free paperback copy of Shoes Full of Sand or Unleashed in Oregon. Free. See my book page for details on the books.
Happy New Year to one and all.