Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Little birds landed on my shoulders and sang to me.

 I fed the neighbor cat, Art, for six days, and to give myself a little breather from being such a giving goddess, I counted that as my daily giving all six days. It was awesome. I needed to have my angel wings dry cleaned anyway.
 I can't say that it has been entirely my fault that I haven't "focused" on giving for almost two weeks now, the dry cleaners lost my wings, the universe came into perfect alignment and no one needed my help, and then the dog ate my computer. However, it's all behind me now.
 I once again have roommates, which will I'm sure, provide many an opportunity to give when I don't feel like it. Today I washed a knife that wasn't mine and then little birds landed on my shoulders and sang to me.

Lesson: cats need to be fed daily.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hold on to your guilt until you have thoroughly enjoyed it.

  Friday night I hosted my parents in my home. This was a first and I was quite nervous about it. Things are pretty calm presently, but the conversations about why I don’t love Jesus and how I could walk away from “what I know is true”, have left me a little less open to their presence. Why I would quit a job that I hate to travel and pursue a life I love makes no sense to them either, and they do not hide their disapproval. And so, I thought that I was the one being accommodating and generous with my time, by taking them in for an evening.
  There were no conversations about Jesus (praise the Lord). There were however, conversations about my career, but ….just maybe they don’t know how to relate to me, so this is the only thing they know to ask? I wasn’t as open or kind as I could have been, and growing up in the church, I have no lack of a guilt complex, for not being better about this.
 We attended a family gathering Saturday morning and then we parted ways. I came home to a rather stressful financial circumstance and was ready to numb the anxiety with a little whiskey, when my parents randomly showed back up at my doorstep. They had read the wish list I have on my refrigerator, had gone and purchased a cast iron skillet, which was on my list, and were delivering it to me.
  I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I couldn’t stop myself from turning back into the helpless child who just needed someone to take care of me. Even at thirty eight, and despite the frequent tension between us, I let my mom hold me while I cried, and it felt good.
  Strange that today is mother’s day and for the first time in a really long time, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my mother. How she could still love me, when I show her very little love or affection, blows my mind.  Always giving, always loving, always encouraging, despite the lack of those things in her own life. I guess I wasn't really the one giving after all.

  Enough sap, here’s a little recap of giving this week:  Ever heard of Flat Stanley? My niece sent Flat Ella to my house, who joined me in gardening, composting, cooking, job interviewing, yoga-ing and band practice. Considering my niece is eight and I have never given her anything (how horrible am I) can I count that for multiple days of giving?  As a side note my brother never should have allowed his daughter to send me flat Ella, because it was all I could do to not cut out a flat baby, say she got knocked up, and send it back to a classroom full of eight year olds. I also volunteered at the beer tent for a charity food truck event. Proceeds go to help my favorite food pantry and I got to drink 8% craft beer for free, not that that had anything to do with which area I chose to volunteer in. I gave to my one of my favorite podcasts. Skipped yoga to spend time with the parentals. Let a friend pick out a pair of sunglasses she wanted and use my store credit. Smiled at several people (which was balanced out by silently yelling at people in traffic) so that I could leave the world in equilibrium rather than too cheery because of my great smile.
  I didn’t give anything Tuesday which I still feel guilty about, which I may be able to let go of in a year or so, but I would hate to not thoroughly enjoy my guilt. 

Lesson: Hold on to your guilt until you have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A long story does not always lead to a burger.

I'm not a complete sucker and I'm not completely heartless either, although I do have my moments. I was standing in the street (like any reasonable human being does), waiting for someone, when a man asks "is this ---, KS"? I immediately put up my guard because who says something like that? He got here somehow and it probably wasn't knocked out in the back of someone's trunk. I would bet that he had some say in the city he stopped in, to randomly ask, if he was in that city, that he chose. (Am I being rude?) So yes, I reply, you are in that city. He obviously thought that I took the bait, hook line and sinker, as he dove into the rest of his story. I'm from so and so, someone took my such and such, I need so and such, I can't get such and such, because I don't have so and so, and I am just trying to get enough money for a burger. (That's a long story for a burger). I took the hook out of my mouth, that he had tried to catch me with, and mentioned that he could get everything he needed at a specific agency, which was only a few blocks from where we were. No, he says, they are closed, I was just there. Now, I have volunteered many a time with this agency, and am pretty familiar with their hours. Today being no holiday, I was pretty sure they were open. I offered to call. Okay, he says, but I just came from there and they're closed. While I'm calling, I'm thinking, if they really are closed, I have no problem taking this man to get a meal, it interrupts my plans of rushing home to do nothing, but I'll manage. The man gets impatient while I am listening to all the phone options of which extension to dial. He starts to say he's just going to keep moving, and I'll admit, I give him an ever so slight amount of attitude and tell him that I am still listening for the right extension. Sure enough, they are open, and yes, they are serving lunch. The man gives me some fake enthusiasm (I shouldn't say that, maybe he had gone to the wrong building before, so he is flooded relief that they really are open..), I then mention that they can help him with all the such and such(es) and so and so(es) that he needs.
 At some point in talking to this man, my guilt kicked in, of not doing anything for him, which makes not sense, as clearly I was willing to hear his story, and help him in whatever way I could. Why not just give him money? or take him out for a meal? Can't I just realize that it is enough to point the man in the direction of resources, that have already been set up to help him? Why do I still feel guilty? and how can I feel guilt and pride at the same time? Pride that I didn't fall for his shenanigans, guilt for even thinking they were shenanigans, pride for helping someone who needed help, and guilt for not doing more. My brain hurts. I'm definitely counting that as my giving for the day. The end.

Lesson: A long story does not always lead to a burger.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's overwhelming how many people were touched by my generosity this week.

It’s hard to write when I feel like I have given nothing spectacular this week. There were no big moments where the world stopped, and tears of gratitude flowed from someone’s eyes, for everything that I had done for them. I really thought that there would be more moments like this when I decided to give daily, but …I apparently I am no superhero. I am only doing what I should’ve been doing without having to think about it. But…some of us are a little more challenged.
 So let’s see, here are the non-tear producing, unspectacular acts of the week: Monday, I offered to share my bananas. (They were organic, does that count as more?) Tuesday I was at the hardware store and offered to take a cart in for a gentleman. (Gentleman is relative, I’m not sure if he really was one or not, as he did not offer to take me to dinner for taking in his cart). On Wednesday, I half volunteered, half guilted myself into taking a less beneficial shift at work, so that a co-worker didn’t have to. (She also bribed me with twenty dollars, so I’m not quite sure that I can count this, but I am.) Thursday I gave to a traveling band and offered my nice hardwood floors for them to sleep on (They opted for actual beds). I also gave cherry juice to Santa Claus next door for his arthritis. Friday I again offered my home to travelers who were passing through (they did not show up). And Saturday I gave a bottle of champagne to the hosts of a party (and then drank their wine).
 It’s overwhelming how many people were touched by my generosity this week. (sarcasm) I guess I have to remember that just making myself available to others is what matters. It’s not about money, or giving “things” really, it is about being willing to ‘give what I have’ without question or hesitation.

Lesson: Santa Claus has arthritis.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I am whatever kind of person that kind of person is.

 Yesterday I spent a few hours standing outside a natural grocery store collecting items for one of the local food pantries, called Just Food. I did this about a month ago as well, at a large chain grocery store. I remember thinking how awesome it would be if we could collect food at the natural grocer, and how generous people would be, right? You can guess where this is going. For two hours I had to fake a smile to some of the rudest, most arrogant people in this town, which is quite unfortunate.
 I do hate to generalize, but I will anyway. Shopping at the natural grocer is quite expensive. I get that you can’t judge a person by what they have, what they wear or what they drive, because it is quite possible that none of those things are paid for, and that their debt has overgrown their lives like moss. But…I still find it curious that the individuals with (to the eye) have the most money, are less willing to help than those with (seemingly) less money.
 I get it though. At this point in my life, I’m probably just above the poverty line. I’m not complaining, I have everything I need and quite enjoy my life, but there have been times when my savings account started to increase, and that, is when I found it harder to give.  The less I have, the less concerned I am with maintaining my bank account, and the more willing I am to give what I have.
  I was given a barrel to collect items in at the grocer yesterday. It was not clearly marked and looked very much like a trash can. One man, not paying any attention to me, walked by and threw his soda in the barrel. I wasn’t mean about it, but I did let him know the barrel was not a trashcan. I picked up the soda and threw it away. A little while later, he came out of the store with a jar of peanut butter and commented that he “could” put that in there. Old people gave, children gave, but it’s always the people I judge, that surprise me the most, and give.
 This morning I got the most wonderful email regarding the craigslist ad I had posted a couple weeks ago (see previous blog):
 “Wondering how your project is going? I don’t need help, but am interested in what you’re doing. I’m originally from Kansas and am moving back there this summer. I’m young and in pretty good shape, own a truck, and I’m self employed so I have nothing but time on my hands – I don’t know what your situation is or who you even are, but if you’re still doing this when I get there I’m more than willing to join up with anything that might seem easier with a second person”.
  I’m not going to lie, it would be way easier to give this up and just give when something crosses my path, and as I’ve said before, I am so sick of giving. I am so embarrassed to even write that. What kind of person gets “sick of giving”? Apparently I am whatever kind of person that kind of person is, but that email gave me a little boost and I appreciated it.

I don’t write about every situation as it would be extremely boring and time consuming, but I do want to share examples of giving, as this is a daily intention. I feel guilty that I even “count” some of these, but maybe giving doesn’t have to be as hard as I am making it? So this week I: wrote a couple letters, shared some cheese, cooked dinner and extended an open invitation for anyone to join (though no one did), shared a fan, took a grocery cart in for the cutest little old lady, complimented others and offered my empty egg cartons to a person I don’t like who is getting chickens. Did I really have to throw in the I don’t like part?  If the intent is to give what I have, then I only have to give what I have, even if it is “just” a compliment.
 This week I: wasn’t so good about practicing patience on the road, there were too many unqualified to be on the road, drivers.

Lesson: I am whatever kind of person that kind of person is.

Monday, April 14, 2014

If you see me on the road, and I cut you off, it is probably just someone who looks like me.

Why is it that I can leave the house with all good intentions, thankful to have been given another day, asking myself how I can give today? and five minutes later I have been mean to someone on more than one occasion?! I can’t believe myself sometimes. I’m rude to a truck driver, who apparently did not think I had the right away, and then rude to a woman at Just Food! Just Food! A wonderful food pantry that provides the most amazing farmer’s market veggies and other items to low income families. Just Food, the place where I was on my way to volunteer today! How embarrassing! I realize that some people may not even take notice of my subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) rudeness, but I, am fully aware. I replay it over and again in my mind, instead of just letting it go and saying I’ll do better next time. There is no changing it. I can apologize if I see that woman again?  That is, if I happen to, in some miraculous instance, actually remember what she looks like, as I can’t even remember when a boyfriend has a beard or shaves it off? Today though, thankfully, Just Food was closed. That way, it was just the woman, myself, and my rudeness, who were present. So much for my mantra, “I am kind to everyone I meet”.
 I found it a little too simple to write about the other day, but now, I am sure it is worth mentioning: Giving patience. Perhaps some people give patience without even thinking about it. For me, on the other hand, it requires constant work. What you would think of as simple challenges, but aren't for me: when I am walking through a store, and come to that awkward crossroads, you know, when someone has to let the other person walk in front or go first, or push that gigantic cart with only one item in front of you, or when you both get to the check out at the same time, or when they only have one item, but you’re in a really big hurry too? Or maybe it's when I'm driving down the street and there clearly aren’t as competent drivers as myself on the road, and I have to let someone in front of me? Let me tell you, I have been practicing patience in these things over the weekend, some scenarios better than others, and it is like someone is hitting me on the head with a hammer, and laughing, because I am in agony over a stupid grocery cart going ahead of me. I tend to be so self centered that I always think I have the right away, and that I was there first and should be allowed to go and I have been waiting the longest, but this cannot be the case. Maybe I am so blinded by my me bubble that it requires a hammer, rather than a simple pin, to burst it. So, I will say with confidence, that I find that practicing patience daily, is definitely giving. Let the other person go first. I give what I have, and what I have, is the ability to not make you grumpy, by allowing you the space you need. 

Lesson of the day: If you see me on the road, and I cut you off, it is probably just someone who looks like me.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Offering two fives for a ten can save someone a trip to the emergency room.

 This week I dropped of the items to the woman who had responded to the craigslist ad. It was hard not to judge the meth teeth, but eh, what does it matter really? I don’t care if you do meth, it’s none of my business. I drink whiskey. Her teeth rot, mine turn brown. At least I can use a whitener.
I didn’t stick around too long to chat it up with this girl, though she was very nice, she definitely had the milk-it vibe. I will sympathize with you, I’ll give you what I can, but if you’re trying to milk-it, I don’t want any part of it. So, I say success.
  On another day, I was at the store, and the cashier mentioned she was low on five- dollar bills. I offered to give her two fives for a ten. Doesn’t really sound like much and I ignored the thought at first, it wasn’t my problem? Right? Just go to the bank already, but….”I give what I have”. Maybe the cashier gets so stressed out at the thought of not having enough fives in her drawer, that she then breaks into hives, which then requires a trip to the emergency room? I just saved this innocent little cashier a trip to the emergency room trip. A job well done.
Today, I saw a man with a gas can and a sign, on the side of the road, by Home Depot. I don’t trust the type, but you got to hand it to a person, that whatever the circumstances be, it takes a bit of ego crushing to stand on a corner with a sign. I believe some people really need help and others, well…the truth will find you out in the end, but it is not my responsibility to judge circumstances, which I will say, I very much did so today. So I left. I went to the post office to drop off a driver’s license that I had found the other day. I fully intended to count this as my giving for the day. Does the post office still mail driver’s licenses’ back to people if you just drop them in? I have no idea. I don’t care really, I’m sure this person, from several states away, had since replaced it, but I was not going to pass up an easy out for giving today. But it never works that way. I kept thinking about that guy on the corner with the gas can.  So what do I do? I continue on my way to finish running my errands. Why is it always money I think I should give, and not money per se in this circumstance, but something that would definitely cost me financially? I don’t have a steady income. How am I supposed to keep giving money to other people when my circumstances are uncertain? I finished my errands, and what do you know, I start driving back towards Home Depot hoping that this guy was gone so that I didn’t have to fill up that can. Isn’t that horrible. Why am I acting like this? Why am I so concerned about me? I pull into the parking lot and was relieved when at first I couldn’t see the guy. Then…there he was, and…there someone else was, handing him back a full gas can. Then…there I was, feeling bad that I didn’t act when I first had the inkling. Gas can man started to walk away and I called to him, handed him ten dollars and drove away. If he couldn’t afford to fill it up the first time, maybe he couldn’t afford dinner either, or maybe ten dollars relieves just an itsy bitsy teeny bit of stress, and he can breathe for a second. It’s not much, but it was a lot to me, and more than likely, a lot for him.

Lesson: Offering two fives for a ten can save someone a trip to the emergency room.