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Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and some of you plan to spend part of that day volunteering time at local soup kitchens, shelters, missions, group homes, and the like. You do this because you have taken inventory of your life and realized that you have a lot to be thankful for--maybe too much--and that it's the least you can do to help out the for-whatever-reason less fortunate on this day of abundance. Your intentions are kind and generous.
But don't do it. Here's why (wait for it, don't get your panties in a bunch, wait for it):
A lot of people volunteer to help out at places like this on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and other holidays. Some shelters and soup kitchens may be short-staffed, but major holidays are when most of them get a glut of volunteers. In fact, some places have to hire extra staff or recruit extra volunteers simply to coordinate the volunteers for the busiest days--especially Thanksgiving. In extreme cases, your presence and "help" may cause more trouble and expense than it is worth.
If you want to help out, here are some options:
1. Forget Thanksgiving. Never mind Christmas. Blow off Easter.
Volunteer to help out on February 11th, or June 25th, or next November 1st. Your chances of getting to say something quotable about brotherhood to the local press are greatly lessened (in fact, nil), but I guarantee that your help will be needed and welcomed on those obscure dates. Volunteer on your birthday, if you want to make it a special milestone.
2. Volunteering has value, but plain old cash is awfully useful, too. How much do you make per hour at your job? $15? $20? $37.23? If you were going to spend three hours at the soup kitchen, write out a big old check for $45.00, $60.00, or $111.69. This may not give you the same warm-fuzzy feeling that you expected to get from serving potatoes on Thanksgiving, but believe me, it will give a giant warm-fuzzy to the people who draw up the budget for the soup kitchen.
2b. I'll bet the board of directors at the soup kitchen or mission or shelter would really like you to serve a 3-year term.
2c. In this day and age, why do people have to line up to eat Turkey and MSG-laden gravy on a Styrofoam plate? Scrape away the surface; get to the bottom; put someone in office; make a non-chump change.
3. Ladling gravy is pretty easy work, let's face it. So is handing out plates of pumpkin pie. If you are determined to help out on Thanksgiving, ask if you can sweep the parking lot, scrub the roasting pans, or scour the toilets in the washrooms. The lines for scooping potatoes are long; the lines for scouring toilets are short.
4. You know those elementary schools in crappy neighborhoods, the neighborhoods where you wouldn't want to live because then your kids would have to go to schools in crappy neighborhoods? I bet--no, I know--that those schools need volunteers, donations of snacks for after-school programs, and plain old money for stuff they don't get and that schools in non-crappy neighborhoods take for granted. Thanksgiving is a low time for a lot of kids in these schools. Do something (you'll think of something) to adopt a family.
5. Take the bus, take a cab, drive your car, ride a bike, just leave your high horse at home. Hey, you're rich enough to have free time and money on Thanksgiving--why do you care why someone else is poor or otherwise losing in the Game of Life? The folks at the shelter, food shelf or soup kitchen may not look poor by your standards (but you're not poor, so what do you know?) and they may be lazy or unmotivated or whatever thing you want to project on them, but here's the thing you cannot argue with: they have somehow gotten it (swallowed pride, guts, hunger, whatever) together to haul it to the soup kitchen, shelter, food shelf, or mission. And on Thanksgiving Day (or whatever day it is if you're being smart and going on June 25th or February 11th) for cry-eye! Aren't you glad you have the wherewithal to just volunteer on T-Day and not be the volunteer-ee? Be thankful, just thankful.
Today, just for today, don't be smug about welfare queens, don't tsk-tsk-tsk about what's wrong with society today, don't fret about why they're not picking up perfectly good apples from the tree next door and risking Giardia as is their fate as poor people. Just give, and don't frown, and be a good person.
6. Really though, March 13th is wide open. So is August 5th. Most importantly, have a good T-Day reflecting and relaxing and not hating anyone too much. I mean that.
lucky and thankful
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