‘Tis the season to give, they say.
But shouldn’t it ALWAYS be the season to give?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Ann Curry’s #26Acts movement after the tragedy in Newtown inspired me to try and help others in tiny but memorable ways. Maybe the school shooting will have a lasting impact of good despite the horrific loss.
In my life, I learned of giving at an early age at the feet of my larger-than-life grandfather.
My Pop grew up during the Depression and he often told me stories of his childhood in Baltimore as his family struggled to survive. Yet no matter how little they had, they always shared with others.
At every Sunday dinner — and in an Italian family, Sunday dinners are like eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet — his mother sent him out to the streets to find a homeless man or three to bring home for a hot meal.
As a youngster, I couldn’t believe it.
“You brought strangers into your house, Pop?” I would ask incredulously.
He would just nod and smile.
It was a different time.
But no matter how many years passed my grandfather still believed in giving. And he still believed it centered on food.
When I would accompany my grandfather on field trips to learn the history of the city he loved he would invariably come across a homeless person.
“Want something to eat?” he would ask.
They always said yes. And he always bought them something from a nearby restaurant.
Pop’s generosity didn’t end there. He volunteered at a local hospital for years until it became too challenging for him.
Now, he simply donates wisdom and knowledge to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I wish I could say that I am as consistently generous as my Pop.
I offer food to people on the streets whenever I have something handy. I’m considering keeping a box of granola bars or healthy snacks in my car to hand out when the occasion arises. I would love to get my kids involved so they can learn from an early age the ease and joy of helping someone who needs it.
Will we bring strangers into our home to break bread with us? I wish we could. But our world has changed so much that seems impossible.
Still, there are a million things we can do each and every day to make a difference in the lives of those around us who don’t have our bounty.
Whether it’s offering a blanket to someone living on the streets or paying a grocery bill for a neighbor who’s struggling, the decision to help should be more a reflex than a choice.
It shouldn’t take a tragedy or a season to inspire us to give to others. But if it does, maybe it’s the tiniest spark that makes a change in us and motivates our friends, neighbors and strangers to do the same.
I thank my Pop for embodying that message long ago.