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[YAK] Charity Begins at Home

So, there’s been 4" (10cm) of rain here in the last 3 days - more
this weekend. Yesterday afternoon I left, trying to beat the next
wave. Sure enough, it was starting up again - it was wet. And there,
standing outside the drugstore, was Booker. Booker is mentally ill,
and he lives on that little patch of sidewalk, right in the middle of
downtown San Francisco - he has for 25 years, that I know of. As I
walked by him he squawked something unintelligible at me. He knows
that I’m not going to support him - he also knows I’m not going to
let him starve to death. So I gave him a $5 bill - nothing to me, a
full belly for the night to him. The squawking was his way of saying,
“Please help me, it’s miserable out here and nobody’s filling my
change cup because they’re all inside…”

I went to the grocery store a few months ago, and they had
post-holiday frozen turkeys for 5 cents a pound - that’s like $5 for
a turkey. I bought two of them and gave one to the church next door.

Lately there are more and more news stories of people saying, “I
never thought I’d be in a place like this (a soup kitchen), but I
can’t feed my kids.”

The point of all of this is not that I (or we) are great
philanthropists - the point is that we are NOT great philanthropists.
All it takes is an awareness that we are not alone, and that it could
be us without a loaf of bread some time. We have a large annual
party, and we ask everyone to bring a food donation. I gave it to two
nice women sitting at a card table outside the store - they were
astonished, though it wasn’t that much food, and said it was WAY
better than money.

A jar of peanut butter can make lunch for 10 kids. A sack of
potatoes that cost $3 can feed 25 people - a bag of rice is dirt
cheap. Fill up a sack of groceries, and if you can’t find a food
bank just drop it off at any church - they’ll know what to do.

We all have less - those who’ve always had less may have nothing,
now. Times are hard, don’t be the same.

John Donivan, You are so right. We have to help each other. Even if
we don’t have much ourselves, it is important to be kind. I have a
good friend who throws a huge birthday party for herself every year,
and invites everyone she knows. However, in order to come to the
party, each person must bring something for the food bank—no
presents for her, just something for the food bank. What a wonderful
idea. At Christmas and Thanksgiving time,Several friends and I
always look for specials at the grocery–One free turkey with each
purchase of $75 of groceries. We stock up on all our staples, and get
a free turkey. We then we take some to the shelter for abused women,
and others to the local shelter for the homeless. It is just a little
thing, but it sure makes us feel good inside. These are hard times
right now, and we have to look after one another. Thanks John for
reminding us.

Alma Rands

Hi John;

I’ll take that to heart. I’m having a hell of a time keeping up with
the bills lately as trade work has fallen off. But I still manage to
find some money for a few organizations around town that help people.
But what you said brought to mind the last couple days.

There are those around us who, although financially poor, are also
what I call, “poor in spirit”. Yesterday, Jimmy wandered into the
store. He doesn’t have any money, he’s on disability, as he has a
mental illness. He wanted his watch band shortened. The jeweler down
the street wanted $15 to do it. I did it and didn’t charge him
though. It only took 5 minutes, and he wanted to have someone take
him seriously, treat him like a regular guy. He suffers from tartive
disconizia (sp?). The psych med’s he’s on make him constantly chew
and work his tongue. I told him, “it’s no charge Jimmy, when you get
around to buying a piece of jewelry, maybe you’ll come see me”. Later
that night, Joe, a local guy who tends to get quite drunk at night
wandered by. He saw my light on and waved. I waved back and he just
stood there. I went to the door, opened it and waved him in, let him
sit down. “How’s everything, Joe?”. He was crying, telling me how
worthless he was, how he was a bum. I gently disagreed with him and
changed the subject. When he’d cheered up a bit, I told him I was
closing up, locked up, and walked with him a bit. This morning, he
walked by the store, looking a lot cheerier, and waved. I saw Loraine
at the little store next door, buying her daily lottery ticket. Her
husband had just died a few months back. I said hi. She’s always
surprised I remember her name. “Of course I remember your name, why
wouldn’t I? You always remember mine.”

These are the people society would just as soon turn their back on.
Ever feel like an outsider? They really are outsiders. Imagine that
kind of life. Dreams like everyone else, with no hope of fulfilment.
Mental illness to struggle with. Addictions, physical ailments. Ever
stop to hold a door open for a guy in a wheelchair? You’d be
surprised at how many people just walk right by. My point is, it’s
great to give money and food, but it’s free to give people a little
respect when they don’t get much of that. Do that enough, something
happens. Even the mighty among us start to look like children, lost
and alone, just trying to get through the day with an occasional
daydream of things some day being different. We’re a foolish race if
we don’t have hearts for each other, since it looks like we’re all in
the same boat, more or less. So, if you’ve got the time to say hi, of
course, you’ve got a little change for a bag of rice or something,
right? Maybe it’ll be different this time around.

David L. Huffman

David, Bless you too.

One of the important things about our soup kitchen is that the
volunteers join the guests and eat together. It’s that humanity
thing we all share.

Good on you!
Judy in Kansas