My friend Ayse is from Turkey but now lives in Canada. She has been distressed by the stories of the Syrian refugees, those coming here and those flooding into her homeland. She wanted to do something to help, so she has turned her garage into a drop-off spot for people to make donations of household goods and furniture for her to take to the collection centre. Instead of waiting to be told what to do, she has acted on her own initiative. People are donating coats and boots (this is Canada, after all, and there's snow on the ground, with the biting cold just around the corner), but she wants to collect things for their homes---wherever they're ending up. The general public may not think to donate humdrum things like cleaning rags and pots and pans and brooms. I gathered up some bedding and crocheted shawls and hygiene items and children's games---and some winter boots---to take over. I was going to donate a couple of blankets too, but when I pulled them out I realized just how old and ratty and full of holes they were. (Why am I storing these things? Even refugees won't want them.)
I just finished reading Frances Moore Lappé's book You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear, and as I scoured the house for things to donate, what I read kept coming back to mind. I think we often have charitable thoughts but don't move on them. We think the challenge is too overwhelming, or we're too busy, or we're plain lazy, or we hesitate to act before we know every detail. We're uncertain what to do or how to do it, or we think our puny effort won't amount to much. We wonder if the recipient really wants or needs our help. We don't want to offend. We don't want to look stupid. But Ayse didn't let any of those things stop her; she took action where she could and how she could. I admire people who actually get up and act instead of just thinking about things.
I sometimes give things (subway tokens, gloves, scarf) to Gary, a homeless fellow who stands by my office. He's been there for years and always has a friendly greeting. He remembers I'm American and tells me Happy 4th of July on Independence Day. I've heard people say not to give homeless people money because they may not really need it. I've heard them say not to give money because you don't know what they'll spend it on. (Okay, how wild can you really get with a dollar these days, anyway?) But I don't think about whether the person needs it or not or "deserves it" or not. I don't give because of who the homeless person is. I give because of who I am.
And besides, sometimes Gary's greeting is the only Good Morning I get that day.
While we're focusing on the refugees and the urgent care they need, we also need to remember the others in our community who need urgent care. There's snow on the ground and the temperature is falling. If you don't have any refugees to care for, look around and see if there are any homeless, any lonely, anyone needing a ride to the doctor or the store, anyone needing a smile and a Good Morning. It's a drop in the bucket, but the bucket will fill over time, and someday your drop may be the one thing needed to cause it to pour out.