On Giving

Many years ago, when I was still married, one of my children was attending Fishburn Park Elementary in Roanoke, Virginia. Always try to volunteer at my children’s schools, even when working full-time makes it really hard. Usually I cook, bake … things I can do off hours. But this particular year, I volunteered to take some of the special education kids swimming at the pool located on the school campus. It seemed like a sweet, easy thing to do, and didn’t require many hours.

From what I can remember I only helped out once – the weather had to be just right, there were many variables; often the adventure was cancelled.

But the time I remember, I was assigned to a sweet boy named Jesus. His name pronounced the Spanish way, “Hey-sus.”

I don’t remember what restricted him to a wheelchair; I’m pretty sure it was cerebral palsy. What I remember was seeing this limp, somewhat meek child in his wheelchair. And then seeing this fierce, strong young man in the water. Because once he was freed of that wheelchair and was paddling; the boy was transformed. He was everywhere, his arms were so strong! The freedom, the smiles, the enthusiasm – there was no comparing the boy in the wheelchair to the boy in the pool. It was beautiful to see.

I talked to the gym teacher and he casually agreed – and said that there was a special wheelchair that would give Jesus the ability to play sports on land as well; a wheelchair that would give him the mobility and freedom that the water was giving him now. So I asked, how much? I cannot recall the exactly figure. But I remember it being a number I thought I could manage through personal donation and fundraising.

I went home and asked my husband if we could help buy the boy a wheelchair; offer matching funds, pay for part and have a bake sale, fundraising, I don’t know … something! And instead he offered to purchase one outright. I was so grateful.
So for several weeks, we emailed back and forth with the gym teacher as he researched the chair purchase and we figured out the details.

The subject line of each email read “Wheelchair for Jesus.”

That sweet boy’s name changed everything about the donation for me. And it shouldn’t have. But it did.

Cause it made me think. To see that subject line. To have my mind think “Jesus” and it was really “Jesus” and why is “Jesus” different than … “Jesus?” To realize that even though what we were doing was kind and it was and I’m not telling you this story because of that … but it made me realize. I didn’t treat everyone I met as a sacred, special person. Some people I favored and other people I tolerated and others I completely ignored.

What would it be like to live a life where I treated everyone I met like they were …. Jesus?

I tell this story today because I’m about to write my end-of-the-year donations. And now that I’m not married and it’s just my salary, my donations are small. But that doesn’t make them less important or less meaningful. Even small gestures matter.

Last year I wrote small checks to multiple organizations; and I won’t bore you with their names, but every EVERY one of them spent my fabulously tiny $25 or $50 trying to get me to give them more money.

Ugh.

So this year, I’m re-thinking my donations. Where I send my money and, therefore, my energy.

I’m going to continue my monthly donation to the United Nations refugee fund. It’s an auto-debit on my credit card. It’s like $30 a month. It’s all I can offer to the greater world at large and to the tragedies that are occurring in places I can only see on a map. It feels like nothing, but I have to believe it is something.

I’m going to make my annual contribution to an organization that one of my dear friends founded, Happy Healthy Cooks. She brings healthy foods and cooking skills into the inner city; to the poverty stricken schools in our area. It is good and worthwhile work, exposing children to actual vegetables, grains and fruits. And I know the overhead is low, most of the money goes to the babes. Worth every penny.

Gonna subscribe to my local newspaper. They sadly don’t deliver to my home because I live South of Nowhere, but I’m going to get it sent to my business. Independent news is about to be the everything; who can you trust? Actual independent research and reporting are so valuable. Truth is about to become a commodity. I’m voting with my dollars for a free press and, I pray, a free country.

And finally, to the Southern Poverty Law Center. An organization that I have some limited experience with but I have known to be authentic and true and willing to come to the aid of those without. The court system is currently intact. I vote with my money that the ability to find a fair court of justice and authentic representation will help keep things in balance as the future unfolds.

I also commit myself to abundance and generosity. I commit to prayer and meditation; to creating more light, more peace, more love in the world. Oh, 2017, you have instilled great fears in me; fears for my country, fears for myself.

Sometimes it feels lonely and scary and overwhelming. And then, I remember Jesus.

Oh, 2017; I vow to give you every chance to be amazing.

Shanti,

Jill

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