"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!"
- Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Donate to Emergency Shelter

The project:
Donate toys, clothes and arts and crafts supplies to emergency housing shelter.

Including clean out, drive time, and drop - 90 minutes.

Why bother?
Statistics are sketchy. After all, it's tough to count people if you can't find them, and without a home to call their own (rented or otherwise), they're difficult to identify. Still, estimates by various agencies seem to have settled on 700,000 to 2 million Americans going without proper shelter every night. Sure, there's a great disparity in the figures, but even if you take the lowest figure, that's a LOT of people without beds to call their own.

Statisticians believe families probably constitute one-third of that population. (Read more here and here, or find your state's info here.) If you expand the definition of "homeless" to include those living in hotels, campgrounds, trailer parks, cars, substandard housing and public places, that estimation rises to 1.5 million children alone, according to a study released March 10, 2009 by the National Center on Family Homelessness.

Crunch the numbers any way you will. All you have to do is open your eyes, drive into any city center, even parks in many rural communities, and you'll see them, the visible homeless, camped out for the day on park benches, sidewalks, street corners before bedding down for the night God only knows where.

Some find their way to shelters. We have one of those shelters in town. It includes a family-specific shelter. Today we opted to contribute goods to that shelter, in hopes of spreading a little joy to the kids there.

Back story on the supplies:

When our youngest was 2, one of my aunts warned me NEVER to buy crayons. "You'll get them at birthday parties and restaurants and every holiday. Seriously. Don't buy them." She was right. Without ever having purchased a crayon, we've collected quite a supply. Ditto markers, pens and pencils (colored and carbon).

It was time to clean out the art corner anyhow, but with visitors on their way I was spurred into action. I split some of our other supplies between our own kids and the kids at the shelter. After all, what good is a box of crayons if there are no coloring books, or at least paper for unique creations.

That done, the girls also selected a few clothes from their closet and drawers and some toys to send.

Worth it?
I think so. I hope the kids in the shelter find enjoyment, peace and perhaps even escape by using these materials. Best of all, our girls' spirit of giving seems to have carried over from their experience feeding people yesterday.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Feeding the Community

The project:
Serve dinner for all comers.

3 hours

Why bother?
Our local police officers associations had worked with various local businesses to put together a community dinner, free for the taking. (Last year they served 650 meals before they ran out. No total on tonight's feed yet.)

Their wonderful BBQ master, Al Torres, made some of his fantastic chicken. There was fish for the Fish Friday folk, plus beans, bread, strawberries, broccoli, salad and a cookie. But all good BBQs need help in the kitchen. The girls had their first taste of handing food over to anyone who asked. (My job? Melting butter. Yep.)

Worth it?
Yes! The girls had been serving for about 90 minutes when Mr. B and I asked if they wanted to take their own dinner break. They both enthusiastically sang, "No!" They were really into it. This will definitely be one of those deeds to repeat!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Working Out Pajama Party Details

The project:
In an ongoing project to help raise awareness of and PJs for the Pajama Program, I continue working with the local fire department.

20 minutes via phone

Why bother?
Organization takes time. While the local F.D. would like to help, negotiating the food, the location, the staff and trying to estimate the number of people who MIGHT show are proving to be big hurdles. Not sure we'll be able to overcome them. This may simply become a neighborhood drive. Or I might hit up family and friends.

Worth it?
I hope so. If we can get something together at the local fire station, I think it would be a bigger draw for families with children. And any kid-visit to the fire station is a good thing for the station and the kids.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playing With My Own Children

The project:
Taking time out to play, just play, with my own children. I know this may not sound like a charitable deed. Read on.

Time: 4 hours

Why bother?I'm with my children pretty much all the time. But in the last year or so, plain ol' playtime has not come as easily for me. First there's their education, then maintaining some decorum here at home, plus I manage to find a lot of busy work around here, or special projects (coaching, writing, blogging, deeds, etc.).

I used to play with the girls all the time. I mean ALL the time. I loved to watch their little minds take in a new situation, mull it over, wonder. But my play began to slacken as the girls became increasingly able to play with each other at length without my intervention. I didn't want to interrupt their play when it was going well. But it's gone to far. I miss them, and they miss me, and setting aside all these relatively unimportant distractions of adult life to get back into PLAY has been a challenge.

It doesn't make sense to do for others when I can't find the time to do for my own children. Today was a return to the basics.

Worth it?
Absolutely. We had a wonderfully relaxing afternoon together, laughing, playing, catching fish from the pond and putting them in the wading pool that's been tempered by several days of conditioning in the yard (aka left out far too long).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recycling - Good Deeds Revisited

The project: Recycling the collection of trash we've acquired.

Time: 10 minutes

Why bother? This stuff was laying around our streets, parks, beaches, you name it. Could have tossed it in the trash, but recycling is the answer.

Worth it? Yes.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Help a College Student Find Her Path

The project: Serve as a sounding board for a college student, lost in the shuffle of the first day of the quarter.

20 minutes

Why bother?
Those college years can be such a confusing time. There's the hubbub, the responsibilities, not to mention the hormones and the drama of the late teen years. It just shouldn't be so stressful! These are the GOOD years (well, some of them).

While painting in the art center at our local university, a student pulled up a stool, clay vase and paint set and set in to work at our same station. We got to talking, and she sure had a lot on her mind. Unsure of her path with, theoretically, only one year to go. I hope by sharing tidbits from my life experience might help her out. She was full of questions, and thoughtful solutions for her own wide world of possibility.

Worth it?
Yes. Good conversation with vivacious young woman over paint and pots. I hope it was equally rewarding for her.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Doing All the Driving

The project: Drive the 270 mile round trip on a family getaway while The Husband rests his bad knee.

5 hours

Why bother?
Confession: I love to drive.

That said, I also enjoy reading and never seem to get enough, particularly these days. So I had looked forward to some relatively quiet time, strapped in my seat, reclined, enjoying the warmth of the sun shining through safety glass while I caught up a bit. But Dear Husband recently hurt his knee. While he could share the driving, his preference is the passenger seat, injury or no. So, I gave up that quiet reading time in favor of rest for him, peace for us all, and a secondary reward of some driving time.

Worth it?
Yes. (And if I enjoy it, does it really count as a good deed?)

Photo courtesy Adrian Black under Creative Commons license.