Good Will to Men

christmas_lights_headerWell, it’s that time of year again. That time when, while scurrying around town hunting for bargains, we’re more likely to walk out of a store and be approached by that downtrodden family patriarch that somehow managed to get the invisible car that they all live in, past all of the nearby gas stations, and into the busy department store parking lot just as it ran out of gas on the way to grandma’s house in (insert distant city here), OR that alleged veteran in the parking lot of a grocery store nowhere near a bus station looking for a little “help” getting a bus ticket back to his family for the holidays. Maybe these stories are true. Maybe they’re not. But they are a lot like Chia Pets and electric razor commercials in that they only seem to appear around Christmas time.

Personally, it’s an intuition thing with me, but if the story is good and they’re not rude or aggressive, I’ll usually give anyone a few bucks if I have it. If I don’t have it, I don’t feel guilty saying “no” either. I don’t concern myself worrying about what they end up doing with the money. It’s not my place to judge them. And at least they’re not ringing a fucking bell in my face.

No matter your feelings on the holiday shakedowns, it’s important not to let the grifters out there make us forget about all of those people truly struggling and heading into this holiday season with a drastically more uphill battle into the land of cheer.

While so many are scouring national retail chains and online marketplaces for sparkly holiday trinkets to satisfy some temporary want, many people are searching thrift shops and second-hand stores for those things that they absolutely need as we head into winter. And if they’re lucky, they might even be able to satisfy a holiday wish as well. And then there are so many people with nothing at all whose wish gland dried up years ago and wouldn’t know luck if she walked up and kissed them on the mouth.

goodwillI found myself in the unusual position this year of having a closet full of jeans, shirts, and light coats that no longer fit. I cleaned out my closet in the self-serving desire to get these things out of my way. I gave them to my local Goodwill store because somebody might be able to use them, or maybe even need them. I did it tonight rather than later so that these simple things might still have a chance of brightening the Christmas of someone who is working on a little tighter budget this year than they’d like.

Life can be hard. Sometimes it’s going to kick you right in the chest. I am extremely grateful that during a difficult time I was able to discover a healthy path to what I hope will be a better me. Not everybody is so fortunate. It’s easy to wander down the wrong path when you’re struggling with life’s hurdles, especially when those hurdles started early and can be seen stretching into the horizon. I sympathize with anyone struggling to run life’s roads in those conditions. And while I’m still working my way down my path and I occasionally stumble into some dark places, I know I want to remember that feeling of gratitude for my good fortune and share as much of it as possible this season. It makes me feel better.

In the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and Christmas parties, it’s easy to forget that “Peace on earth, good will to men” isn’t just a Christmas card slogan. And even harder not to immediately disregard the possibility that maybe that guy in the parking lot honestly just needs a little gas money.

Happy Holidays.

ON A SIDE NOTE, if someone out there actually receives a Chia Pet for Christmas, you’d probably get more out of it if, after you grew the magic “hair,” you pulled it off of the pottery and threw it on a salad, or maybe just threw the seeds themselves into some yogurt. Chia seeds are a high fiber “superfood” rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that among other things has been shown to help control blood sugar, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and possibly prevent cancer. And they’re subtle nutty flavor isn’t bad either.

Chia-Seeds-Bag_400Click here for more information on the health benefits of chia seeds (yes, that picture in the link is actually sunflower seeds), and here for more uses. I haven’t explored too many of those other uses yet, but I put a teaspoon of them in my vitamin and protein shakes every day. I’ve only been adding them for about a month, but I have felt better during runs and workouts. I’m not sure how significant their singular effect has been, but I’m going to keep doing it.

Now, what to do about these cigarettes? Hmmmm.

DISCLAIMER: I have absolutely no idea if the chia seeds that come with that silly pottery gift are of any kind of food-grade quality. Nor am I qualified at all in the nutritional, health, or medical fields. I only know what I read, but I read a lot. And I recommnend people research anything they plan to ingest for the first time. That’s why I provide the links. Enjoy.

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6 responses to “Good Will to Men

  1. Nice reminder about those folks in the parking lot…I guess I’m way too jaded, but I find myself not trusting many people asking for handouts. I’ve been burnt many times. Every time I’ve offered to buy a meal or fill up the tank I’ve been turned down. My rules.

    • Your rules aren’t wrong in any way. It’s all about intuition. Sometimes I say no. Sometimes I don’t. But there are people struggling out there who have been forced to swallow a lot of pride and do things they never thought they’d have to, like ask a stranger for some spare change or tell their kids that they’re going to “skip the presents this year” or any number of other things that I don’t want to forget about. And I know that I’ve seen/heard people find themselves in a much needier position than they ever thought possible and rethinking their previous attitudes towards those in need. I’m just being a little melancholy I guess. It’s Christmas time after all. Haha.

  2. I wish there was a verification test. Man, now I really do sound like Scrooge. When Kony 2012 came out, I wanted to support it, just as an example. When I did a little teseatch to figure out how much of my $1 is going to go to the people in need, I ended up not donating. Your almost better off giving to the local Food Bank. I love Navy Telief, that is another good one.

    Agree whole-heartedly, I’m glad we as a nation ate such givers, because many people ARE in need. Well written.

    • It’s funny that you mentioned charities because I was thinking along a similar line yesterday. So many people will quickly assume that anyone asking for money is going to use it for drugs, booze, or some other unrighteous pursuit, and then justify that assumption simply because they refuse the direct purchase of food or drink, but so many people have no better idea how the money they throw into a well known charity’s till will be spent than they do the pan-handler. I would never even suggest that addiction is not rampant among so many people living on the streets, but for someone trying to get in out of the cold for the night, a fast food value meal won’t help pay for a cheap motel. I just don’t worry about it. If someone politely asks me for something that I’m actually able to provide, I try to do it. Why not? I’ve wasted money on countless other things.

  3. The bottom line is…we should give. A lot more than we do. I, in particular, need to give more, whether it be of my time or in actual dollars. Your blog really just added fuel to an internal debate that I’ve been having with myself for several years. But, because I like to write…

    In a simpler world, I would say donate that dollar and don’t think twice about it. But, I’m not sure the world was truly ever that simple. We are skeptical of the motivations of others with good reason. I often tell Prospective CO’s to trust your gut. I believe in the inherent ability of human beings to look each other in the eye and get a funny feeling. There’s a reason you get it, it’s probably something held over from evolution where it was our warning of danger. I don’t know, I never paid much attention in Biology or Psychology. But, I have more often than not trusted my gut feeling on people and my normal gut feeling is that the person with their hand out probably shouldn’t have their hand out. Right or wrong, I often think of people like this when I get asked to provide my hard earned dollar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgALJlpQXko). That dollar I give to this guy, is a dollar that I can’t provide to my family if we get into trouble. Or it’s a dollar I can’t provide to my kids when they MAY need it down the road. I’ve been accused (applauded?) for taking the long view too often, but that’s how my mind operates. The above example is probably not very Christian of me, I acknowledge.

    So how to get past that? You are right and correlating the rejection of a burger doesn’t mean they don’t need the money. Most of my examples are the guy/girl who asks for a dollar for a burger, but then rejects me buying a hamburger from the McDonalds right in front of us. With the entering argument that I don’t give enough, when I do, I try very hard to research the organization so that I can feel comfortable that the opportunity cost of giving that dollar to them and not my children is worth it. I wish that we could all be more honest with each other as well, because I’d much rather give $100 to a friend in need (where I feel reasonable secure that the circumstances warrant the assistance) than an absolute stranger I know nothing about. I love local food drives. I think churches are good, but I have to admit that the Catholic Church I have a little issue in the way they use their donations. Military giving programs are tremendously beneficial. The Ruritan Club on Knotts Island was a great organization to give money to. The nameless, faceless organization…it’s just tough for me to support. For me, probably the best charity I could perform would be in volunteering my time and showing my children that it’s a moral imperative that they help their fellow human being in need.

    Hey, my tip of the hat to you, I really wish I could be more relaxed about charity, but I probably put as much thought and time into it as I do choosing an investment, haha. Again, thanks for this blog, really enjoyed it.

    • You’re without question a giver no matter how you approach it and choose to do it. Thanks for everything that you already give. It is appreciated more than you’ll probably ever fully hear. Merry Christmas Scrooge. (yes i’m kidding)

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