Different approach to gift-giving can help others

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Sunday, sitting at my well-lit dining room table I was enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee. I had drawn the water from the faucet at my kitchen sink, and used the coffee from the supply in my cupboard, and brewed it in my automatic coffee maker.

My cereal was chosen from one of the several boxes on the shelf and topped with yogurt from the refrigerator and blue berries from the freezer.

The phone rang and my granddaughters from Florida sang me Happy Birthday. On my computer my grandson left me a recording of him playing on his violin a song he had heard his grandfather sing.

The radio and the paper brought me the news from all over the world, including a story about those on our East Coast still without power, heat, flush toilets, water, lights or other seemingly ordinary comforts of an ordinary life.

Suddenly it occurred to me that, for the moment, I was one of the 1 percent, privileged to have everything I needed or wanted, compared to them.

My next realization regarding those complaining they were without their customary utilities, was that they were indeed “customary,” accepted as a matter of fact in every-day life in America. All of us are, indeed, the 1 percent to those in many parts of the world who look at us in amazement because they have never had heat, lights, running water, flush toilets, freezers or refrigerators in their homes.

Now is the time, it seems to me, for considering alternative gifts for those less fortunate than we are. This past week has been Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, and I was amazed at the number of self-acknowledged homeless people who stopped by the display on Main Street to take the quiz and share their lives with us. Our own Walla Walla homeless and hungry tend to be invisible to most of us, but more than 500 are living, or existing in our community.

This is your opportunity to say “You are special” or “Thank You” to some one close to you by giving a gift in their honor to someone who really needs a helping-hand.

My pet project this past year has been purchasing toilet paper by the pallet through Help Line for distribution through the food banks, YWCA Women’s Shelter, Christian Aid and STAR. That may not seem like a “real” gift, but it is one of the things that food stamps does not cover (like other personal-care items) and it is a basic need for all people. A pallet is $862 and contains 30 cases or 2,400 rolls. Since we began the project with Alternative Gifts last year, we have purchased five pallets and are within $125 of funding our sixth. I hope for the seventh before Christmas.

If this doesn’t strike your fancy for gifting, please consider:

Bus Passes. These may be purchased from Valley Transit.

A $20 pass gives unlimited rides for the month.

A $20 ticket book that costs $15, does not expire and can be used until the tickets are gone.

Reduced passes are $10 and are available for seniors (over 65), youths under 18, handicapped and low-income riders.

The Red Cross, of course, is focused on the victims of Sandy, but also provides help for many local families recovering from local disasters such as house fires, etc. You can go on line to redcross.org to see many items including emergency disaster kits ranging in cost from $35 to $75. The local chapter can order anything for you that then would be stocked for use here, or given by you to someone you know.

Help Line also sells the bus passes and never has enough to last a month to get people to work, school or the store.

A great need is always diapers, especially size 3 or 4. These could be delivered to the YWCA, Catholic Charities or Help Line.

Blankets are a real need as the weather gets colder and heating assistance funds run out. Wheatland Village is helping with their collection, or they could go directly to Help Line.

Food: Nonperishable items or the donation of money or your time to the food banks would be great gift.

Think about the thing you would most hate to be without and consider giving that as an alternative gift to someone special in your life.

You may have a favorite charity to whom you would like to donate in honor of someone, please feel free to do so. The opportunity to be helpful and supportive for those less fortunate in our community is always with us, and you may find the greatest gift you have given is to yourself in knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life.

Sarita McCaw writes on behalf of Faith Communities for Sustainability. For more information, contact her at 525-3349 or saritamccaw@bmi.net.

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