dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The ( Re )Cycle of Giving

Recycling has become a big part of our society and this time of year shouldn’t be any different. Just because the Holidays are here doesn’t mean we have to go out and buy tons of new gifts - what we already have could be just the perfect item for someone. The last couple of weeks I’ve been finding it hard to get into a festive mood, but this particular subject has really brought me around. It amazes me how the act of giving can lift my mood. Nothing makes me happier than surprising a person with something they really like or need. Giving is some of the best medicine there is.

As one who lives with chronic pain, it can be difficult to rein myself in from trying to keep up with the frenetic pace of others during this season. I know what will happen if I push myself too hard physically. But there’s really no reason to do that. You and I can have a different goal. Even though we can’t shop like a bargain-hunting warrior all night on Black Friday, even though we can’t bake acres of goodies and literally frost ourselves into a corner, we absolutely *can* still give of ourselves - often with things we already have - and truly brighten lives and uplift spirits.

A few years ago, a local market in our area started a new promotion. Every purchase earned you points toward rewards. One of the reward options at the end of the year was a free turkey. I convinced a few friends and coworkers to give me their free turkeys and I donated them to a local food bank. It didn’t cost any of us a dime, but we were able to feed many people with such a simple act. Search in your community. See if you can find any such similar rewards system at any local market or department store, and give what you earn to a deserving place.

My local YMCA, where I am a member, goes through a lot of towels. Approximately every two months, instead of throwing away the torn and holey towels, the Y gives them to me in two huge bags. I take them to my veterinarian friend’s no-kill cat shelter where they are used for many purposes. Last Christmas, I was in the YMCA locker room talking about my recent trip to the shelter to deliver towels and one of the ladies interrupted me. She said she had received all new towels as a Christmas gift for her newly painted bathroom. She offered to donate all her old towels since they no longer matched her decor. She wanted them to help comfort the needy cats & kittens on their way to a second chance at life. Her words moved other ladies in the locker room that day, and I ended up with an extra bag filled to bursting with towels, blankets and even money for the shelter. Ask your local animal shelter what they need in the way of donations. If they want towels, check with any gyms or sport clubs in your town and see if they will follow suit with my YMCA and donate used towels to your cause.

How many pieces clothes are in your closet which you never wear, but you just can’t get rid of because they’re in great shape? I am one of those people. Our local homeless shelter serves families and helps them get back on their feet by providing training for new careers. One of the many things they need are clothes for job interviews. A friend at our church goes once a month to help organize the clothes and accessories, and she uses her fashion sense to put outfits together.  Imagine... your cast-off blazer, skirt, scarf, and earrings could be the only thing needed to help one parent make a good solid start for their family. How amazing must it feel to be part of that (re)cycle? You could be the one thing that affects the change to bring them something new and hopeful for the future.

Ever since the tragedy of 9/11, I more deeply realize all the sacrifices and risk that firefighters take every day on our behalf. My mom and I decided we will honor our local firefighters every Christmas Eve when these brave individuals are apart from their loved ones, working all night to protect and serve. Every year, we choose a fire station in our city and we bake goodies for them. By myself, I could not do it because working in the kitchen is painful. But together, we are able to work as a team. Get your own team of friends & family together and spread out the work to keep your pain under control. However, you could also use the recycling concept. If you receive food gifts like candy or other goodies that you don’t want or cannot eat because you have food allergies or dietary restrictions (like diabetes or gluten intolerance), collect those items and deliver them to the firefighters. They will be grateful for your offering and pleased to know their hard work is respected by the community.

Just because something is already used doesn’t mean it isn’t still incredibly useful. That’s a lesson we need to embrace. Our chronic pain may have made the “package” we’re in a little worn out and less shiny & new, but inside our hearts are full and ready to reach out. Our perceived “lack of perfection” does not diminish our ability to give.

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