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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Today... 'tis the season

In general, I am not a huge fan of being nice only one time a year, because it's a holiday. I don't discourage being nice during the holiday season - it's lovely to feel the magic and all that - but I would much rather see more people use the holidays as a kind of starting point to set the tone for the rest of the year. Make doing some sort of good, somehow, somewhere the norm, and do some extra during the holiday season - even if your only motivation is to score a few extra points with Santa. Or with Jesus. Or both.

I do believe that those of us who have the means need to focus on helping others get on their feet. I am not talking about pumping money into charity organizations and just hoping that something good will happen. Notice, I am not discouraging people from donating - not at all. Rather, it would be great to see more specific donations that go to concrete people and projects, where you can be fairly certain that some progress is being made - even if it's one person at a time.

If you have the means, consider supporting Heifer International, where your gift turns into something very tangible that can be put to work right away; Kiva - one of the best example of world-wide communities supporting small businesses everywhere; or Kickstarter - the place to seek out and participate in some unorthodox discovery and innovation in every imaginable area. If you are TRULY well off, consider making significant gifts - like closing off a few Kiva loans at once, splurging on a Heifer Ark, or funding an entire Kickstarter project. If you want to be holiday-specific, one of my favorite places to donate is Southwest Indian Foundation - their holiday gift baskets and woodburning stoves have been making a huge difference in many lives for years.

If your charity budget is small, you can still work with the organizations I listed above, just on a more modest scale: the honeybee gift at Heifer costs $30, a share of a trees package is $10, the minimum amount for a Kiva loan is $25. And while I am not a Christian and do not agree with everything Samaritan's Purse says and does, I gladly support their Operation Christmas Child program, where you can send a gift box to a child across the world for $30. Another venue for small, targeted donations is supporting American Troops and their families. Here is a fantastic source that takes you to all sorts of organizations providing various volunteer services to the service members and their loved ones.

If you have no spare money, but know you have stuff you can donate off to where it will do some good - it's time to organize the mother of all cleanings and sortings. Considering how much stuff we accumulate, even when we are on a very limited budget, it is bound to be a sizable chore. Consider making it a fun day with your kids or with your friends - with maybe a potluck buffet to munch on through the course of the day. You can sort stuff into boxes and simply take it to Goodwill - that works. If there is a homeless shelter in your area, consider contacting them and finding out what they need - there is always a shortage of blankets, sheets, towels, toiletries, just some very basic things. If you are ready to part with some of your books or DVDs and want to make sure they go to where they will be appreciated, consider contacting a local library, a school, or hooking up with Books for Soldiers. Almost every household has leftover home improvement supplies - tiles, paint, brushes, nails, extra tools, etc. Such things are always in demand at Habitat for Humanity ReStore centers.

If you have nothing to donate off, but have the energy and reliable means of transportation, consider donating your time. Someone recently complained in an article, that soup kitchens are filled to the brim with volunteers at holiday time, but are completely deserted at other times. Well, here you go - turn it around. People need to fed year-round, not just during the holidays. Become that person who can be counted on regardless of the season.

If you are well and truly in dire straits and have not a penny of spare change to give, nothing to donate, and no means (or health) to get around to volunteer sites, there are still things you can do. First of all - do not be afraid to ask for help yourself. There is nothing weak or demeaning about it. I wish I knew that when I was broke and hungry. It may not seem like it, but the world is a much nicer place than it appears with a lot more fantastic generous people in it than you may think. Speak up. Someone out there wants to pull you up and help you get on your feet.

With computers being pretty much a necessity these days (both for work and school), most families have them, even those in the low income bracket. If you are on line, you can send e-cards to service members; you can sign and share petitions supporting benefit programs for people who are struggling - people like you; you can join affiliate programs with book sellers and promote your favorite authors, while making a little bit of affiliate revenue on the side; you can put together some fun graphics and positive messages and create a bunch of stuff with them on Zazzle; the last but not the least, you can post a funny picture of your cat or a great photo or a poem on Facebook and make someone smile, feel inspired, and think. And that is not so little.

Happy holidays!


Greta said...

You've put together some lovely ideas. Let's hope some of what you had to say rubs off.

Anonymous said...

Agreed....fantastic ideas.