(Note: I was going to leave this as a comment to Stephanie's piece on How Do You Help, but decided to post it as a "part II" in the series.)
I've been poor. There was a time in my life that I couldn't afford a turkey sandwich, let alone a turkey dinner. During that time, a man I know offered to let me sell Christmas trees for him at a lot he set up. I was to manage the lot, sell the trees and my cut was half of the gross.
I kept scrupulous records. At the end of the run, I gave him the money less my cut. I figured he only broke even on that lot. He had several others in the Parkland-Spanaway area that had better traffic and consequently made better money. He also had one at his house on South 96th that he ran himself.
He would also take his troop of Boy Scouts and he would use those boys to help distribute free trees to people he knew in the community that were poor and couldn't afford a one.
We closed the lot on Dec 23. He took the few remaining trees to one of his other locations. The money I earned wasn't much, but it helped get me through that month. The next day, he showed up at my door on Christmas Eve and said I'd made a mistake in my figures. I was shocked, because I knew I kept really good records and accounted for every tree. I thought he meant that I shorted him or something. He then handed me a 50 dollar bill and told me I miscounted. He said "Merry Christmas" and left.
I learned a lesson from him that I'll never forget. He wasn't a rich man. He earned a living making dentures for dentists and had a small tree farm out in Tenino. That lesson was simply this: Do what you can.
Since then, my circumstances have improved considerably. Every year, we try and find some family to help anonymously. We give to organizations that we know make a difference - usually the Salvation Army during the holidays. We also give and work through our own church and their resources. This year, my wife organized a coat drive in our church for Associated Ministries. In essence we give to our church and to organizations set up to help people in need such as the SA and Lutheran World Relief. We can't possibly give to everyone, but we try to help others though a few organizations we know that are trying to make a difference.
In today's world, I think giving through religious organizations gives a better bang for your buck. They have the established resources to reach more people than one person could just on their own.
Happy Thanksgiving all and remember to give thanks in all of your giving that you have the means to help - even if it's just a little.