Kahlil Gibran said it well: “Kindness is like snow. It beautifies everything it covers.” Oregonians are a generous group—they give to food banks, homeless, animal shelters, and more. Giving to help others makes you feel even better about yourself. February 17th is “Random Acts of Kindness Day” but let’s do something every day to help someone else. All of us can.
The cold, wet, dark, and snowy months cause us to seek inner warmth as well as outer warmth. While giving blankets and coats to the homeless or animal shelters leads to feelings of warmth in your own heart, we must beware of self-serving charities. Any registered charity can be checked out but giving locally will give you a greater feeling of helpfulness. For instance, instead of sending dollars to a charity that can afford TV commercials or sending you “gifts,” you can give those blankets and towels to the local animal shelter or homeless shelter.
Get your kids and grandkids involved. When they see you giving they’re more likely to grow up caring about others. Some schools even teach that. But let the kids choose what appeals to them whether a nursing home, disaster victims, a hospital, food bank, or even a community garden, where excess produce is given to the Oregon Food Bank, which does an amazing job of distribution. Remember to donate food for pets too.
The holiday bell ringers told me that it’s the poor section of society that’s most likely to donate their change to the red buckets. They understand the pinch of low income and still want to help others. The people coming out of the stores laden with packages may put paper dollars into the red buckets. Even it you don’t participate with money, you can volunteer—in schools, hospitals, libraries, or food pantries.
Your family comes first, of course, once the basics are taken care of—air, water, food, shelter, and community, how much more do they need? A sense of kindness might be more valuable than another plastic toy. If you find yourself donating monthly to causes, you may just have too much “stuff!” If your garbage can is always overflowing you may be one of those Americans who is throwing out 40% of your food, that being the national average. If that’s the case, you are buying too much.
Friends come next in the scheme of people you can probably help. Help is a way of donating that helps your own heart feel good. Carry groceries, rake leaves, or shovel snow, make a hot meal or soup, open a jar, even help build a chicken coop!, These are ways of giving that cost you nothing in terms of dollars yet yield great benefits not only to those you help, but to yourself as well.
Don’t forget to make good relationships with your neighbors. We will all need this if times of disaster touch us—earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, severe storms. Offer shelter if you are able, or offer to shelter or care for their pets. Bring a hot meal of at least a container of soup. Knit a blanket, gloves, or a hat for cancer patients. It’s time to get to know the people around you in case of disasters. They do happen.
Remember that our Earth needs our care too. Pray that your kids and grandkids and many generations beyond will inherit a habitable planet. Cold War nuclear testing indirectly led to the death of thousands of Americans. This was according to a study from the University of Southern Denmark. Airborne radiation contaminated pastures, cows, and milk. We can do better than we have so far. More about that in future columns.
Regardless of what you think about the recent ban on plastic bags, it’s a step in the right direction. The European Union does not provide shopping bags. Yet in China where those restrictions don’t exist, plastic bags clog roadsides and waterways. It’s time we took some steps to clean up and restore the Earth. We need to do so much more for our struggling planet. Buy less, period. Evaluate if it’s a want or a need. Buy less packaging, for which you are nonetheless paying. Donate more to others, there is always somebody in more need than you. Recycle everything you can, yes even juice bottles. With the glass ones you even get money back. Repurpose what you can. My Christmas wreath became a nest for my chickens. And create less garbage by simply buying fewer packaged foods.
Connecting with others is so much more than texting or checking out Facebook. These time-consuming events will never be as fulfilling as face-to-face contact, though may have to do if your family is far away or in the military. If possible, spend time with people, even the harried checkout person or the stressed out mom or schoolteacher. Time and love are really all we have to give to each other. The US has the highest healthcare costs in the world yet we have a steadily declining life expectancy. So remember to care about yourself too.
With heart disease and hypertension still on the rise, do your part for YOU. Don’t smoke (anything). Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise often, drink moderately if at all, and eat a healthy (unpackaged diet). But go ahead and have a little chocolate—it is good for your heart. Love you!