Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I just made my annual contribution to Cherry Street Mission. They shelter and feed the homeless, and I am grateful for their work. "Giving people a shot at a healthy life."  I also support Toledo Streets newspaper and Veterans Matter(, which serve homeless vets.

The needs are so great, I wish I could give more.  I remind myself there are many ways to give.  I give money to a few charities, time to others, and prayers for most, in hopes other people will give thanks by supporting them. At this time of year I'm grateful for America's "can do" and philanthropic spirit.

I filled in a survey from my old high school in Rochester, NY.   It's a fantastic school that deserves lots of support.  But it's far away, like my college and my graduate school, also great educational institutions. It made me think, I am choosing to give closer to home, and also to smaller groups.  The bigger the non-profit, even crisis and environmental organizations whose missions I support, the less I'm likely to give, probably because I figure my little gift won't mean as much as giving closer to home. I think we feel best about giving when we can see the impact our gifts make on people and on our community.

It's that way with online appeals, too.  I have signed many a petition online, for gun control, against fracking, to support this political action or that, and then I am immediately asked for a donation.  Now I am on lots of lists and the appeals never stop.  As much as I care about certain issues and certain political action groups, I no longer sign online petitions. It just makes me feel bad that I can't support every cause I believe in, at least not with money.

I'm not sure about political appeals either.   Think of all we could give to those in need with the money poured into political campaigns!  I think most Americans feel the same way. Is it okay that people like the Koch brothers and other super wealthy donors dominate the landscape?  Our measley gifts mean nothing in the face of such political contributions. Maybe I'll make one exception: a small contribution to a woman presidential candidate in 2015, more to make a statement than to fund what will be another obscenely costly campaign.  I taught women's history for many years, focusing on women's struggle for the vote and greater participation in American political life. I'd be happy to see a woman president in my lifetime!

I do support a few international groups, like Doctors without Borders, but not many.  I believe Peace Corps Partnership projects, individual PCV projects that are tax-deductible, are a good bet, because I know they really do get down to the local level (  With a Partnership Grant, and some book donations from friends in Toledo, Ohio, a little public library in Starobelsk, Ukraine, was able to start its first English-language book collection and make a first step in applying for a Gates foundation grant to computerize the library.

In these cases, every little bit helps.  I believe individuals can make a difference, and that we can give in many ways.  America's philanthropic spirit is an anecdote to the nastiness of politics and a blessing for those less fortunate than we are.  Giving and gratitude: The spirit of Thanksgiving. 
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