The Giving Tree

I’ve found a way to keep the Christmas spirit all year around — even though the best evidence of that comes in December.

As many of you know, I’m an avid knitter. So avid, in fact, it caused tendonitis a year ago. I’ve been knitting since I was 19, and there are countless pieces out there I’ve created. Some I’ve even designed myself.

Giving Tree sm
The Giving Tree

Over the years I’ve used this gift  (and I truly consider knitting to be a gift) from time to time to make items for charitable giving. My current endeavor is hats for those who come to my church’s food bank. Every year we have the Giving Tree, and people hang cold weather items such as hats, scarves, mittens on it during December.

Those items are available for a group of people in need, some homeless, some struggling to keep a roof over their heads. All struggling to get enough food for themselves and their families.

The year-round aspect of this is easy to figure out. I knit the hats throughout the year, and keep them in a basket until it’s time to give them away. Some of the yarn is leftover from other projects, some is purchased for this purpose and some is donated to me.

Giving Tree Hats
This year’s collection

I take pleasure in knowing a handful of people will have attractive, warm hats for the cold weather. Some say charitable giving is selfish, because you do it to make yourself feel better. I say, I don’t have to do this to feel good about life and myself. I do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Do you have a talent you share with others in need (whatever that need may be)? I know Judy shares her music and her growth from tragedy with others. Lois shared her kind heart and tough spirit with prisoners until health issues prevented her from doing so. And each month Kathy writes about how to keep the Christmas spirit alive year-round.

Most of you who read this have been given so much, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. For those who are struggling, I pray others reach out to you. I was lucky enough when, during my worst hours, kind people gave me a lift out of the abyss.

This is my thank you.


 

As Good as a Feast

There is an alarming belief

that if you’re hungry, you’re grateful for anything, even stale or expired food. As long as it’s edible. Maybe, to an extent, that’s true, and certainly I’ve been shocked into reality when I’ve watched homeless men dig for food in trash bins. But our obligation to those in need goes beyond clearing out the pantry of all the old food we’ve finally figured out we’re never going to eat. We owe them dignity.

I was forced to go to food banks a few years ago, and it was appalling, some of the food I brought home. It literally made me ill to eat it. Now, some food banks buy most of the food themselves, and many accept donations of day-old bread and the like that are welcome. However, others rely on donations of canned goods and other food.

I got a jar of peanut butter once that was absolutely foul. It turns out the company had gone out of business many years before. Today, when I donate to food banks, peanut butter is on the top of my list, and I always buy a new jar of a name-brand product.

It is humbling going to a food bank.

It is humbling going to a food bank. You often wait forever, and sometimes have to sit through an interview where they assess your needs and ask you personal questions that seemingly have no connection to getting food. To end up with a bag of dusty cans and long-expired pancake mix is demeaning, heart-breaking. Yet you have to eat, so you end up with tasteless (at best) meals.

The food bank at my church, I’m proud to say, buys much of the food it gives out and supplements what it buys with food grown in a community garden. I’ve spent the last few weeks gathering tomatoes from a friend’s garden (with his blessing). Anyone with a tomato plant or two can tell you, they produce lots of fruit. Wonderful, juicy, fresh fruit that can be used in so many meals.

Vegetables in BasketThey also are known in the area as the food bank that treats the people who come to them in need with dignity and respect. (I must make note that my Episcopalian congregation is currently meeting in a Lutheran church, and it’s the Lutherans who started the food bank and should get credit for its success. The garden was my priest’s idea.)

The people who need help with putting a meal on their table sit next to you at work. They are the families a few doors down, their kids play with yours. Sometimes, it might even be you.

Give the food you would want to receive when you’re making a donation to a food bank. It’s as simple as that.


Photo Credit: © monticellllo – Fotolia


Feast

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