A Year of Living Thankfully

"Uncle Willie" is recommended for kids by New York Cares
Last year, some friends drove up to up to visit us in our TopSecretHideOut Up-state. The area they drove through is not particularly impoverished or deprived. It reflects the sort of rural stagnation common in many parts of the country. Things haven’t got significantly worse because they never recovered from the long, slow decline after WWII.
To the children’s eyes however, the old houses with peeling paint and leaning porches must have seemed like something out of The Road. They were shocked, horrified and frankly a little grossed out to learn that these places existed let alone that people actually lived in them. These were kids who had spent hours participating in clothing drives and charity walks but for whom poverty was still very abstract. My own children are even further removed, barely at the point where they willingly share. They have no awareness at all of the countless ramshackle houses and mobile home parks we pass on our drives to and from.
Last week we published a list of places where families can volunteer to help out over Thanksgiving which I’ll republish at the end. It strikes me that many people, I included, want to help our children to break out of the cocoon of privilege and begin to understand something of the world. The problem is, it can easily begin to feel a bit like sympathy tourism as families jockey for something to do for less fortunate people around the holidays. This is not a bad thing to do. It’s a good thing and yet I can’t help but think it’s missing something important – and that something is the complexity of relationships. It seems to me that without empathy, charity is just charity, like that strange line Bono sings from the Live Aid anthem “… Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” Huh?
So here is my modest proposal. If you don’t already, volunteer with at any of the great places on our list this Thanksgiving. Then go back next month, and the next and the one after that – even if it’s just to drop off a donation. Go until it becomes hard not to go because you and your kids know who you’d be letting down if you didn’t. It might not change the world but with a little luck it will change the way your kids look at it.
Neighborhood Food Pantrie
The Helping Hands Food pantry distributes emergency food supplies to about 600 persons each week. The pantry operates out of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn and serves people regardless of their religious affiliation.
“Our greatest needs are canned soups, packages of ramen (chicken flavored), canned fruits and vegetables (appx 15 oz cans), and 1 lb bags of rice and/or pasta. It is important that any donations be within the expiration date period. Also, we do not give out sweets, sugar infused drinks, snack food, etc.”
CAMBA served 2,800 people in October of 2009 alone. CAMBA is located 1720 Church Avenue
"The pantry benefits most from fresh whole foods that will keep (including potatoes, squash, apples, etc.) and non-perishable goods that are low in sugar, salt, and saturated fat, including but not limited to: brown or white Rice, canned of bagged beans, canned chicken, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned or dried milk, 100% fruit juice, Pasts, canned tuna/Salmon, cereal and peanut butter. "
For further information about donating food, money or to organize a food drive in at your church, temple, synagogue, mosque, apartment building, school, workplace, or any other community or civic organization/association contact at 718-287-0010, at 718-282-3082/ or at 718/-282-308
The Church of the Gethesemane on 8th Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets is looking for donations for its Sunday Thanksgiving Dinner on November 22nd. Please call Victoria at 718-499-6704, ex. 202 .
Their Food Pantry program serves church members in need, Project Connect members who are incarcerated, and neighborhood persons. Food is distributed to people in the congregation on the first Sunday of the month. The Church of Gethsemane is a congregation of The Presbyterian Church (USA) founded in 1989 by and for incarcerated persons, formerly incarcerated persons, their families, neighborhood persons, and people who feel called into ministry with the poor.
You may also be interested in the book Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen recommended by NY Cares.