Not Okay

Rain or shine, sleet or snow – he was always there. Sitting on a bucket-turned-upside-down as a stool, I would drive past him on my way to the post office in the small community where I live. He always made eye contact. He sometimes smiled. He usually waved or nodded cordially in my direction. Once he tried to bum a cigarette from me, but I was powerless to help him out with that one. He was a fixture there, at the crossroads of neighborly concern and I’m-late-for-an-appointment, but until yesterday, I didn’t even know his name. It was Bob.

Weed-Wacker Bob.

I turned the corner toward the post office yesterday and noticed an empty spot on the shoulder where he would normally sit. Instead of the elderly, white-haired man with a weedeater, propped up against the fence in a sea of political signage was this sign:

Weed Wacker Bob Memorial

And it made me sad. It makes me sad. And it makes me ask questions – some of which make me uncomfortable today.

What was my responsibility to Weed-Wacker Bob? What I mean is – as a child of God with resources to share, should I have given him something? The only thing he ever asked me for was a cigarette. And the opportunity to whack my weeds. I gave him neither. Instead, I smiled and waved and drove right on by. Year after year. After year.

How did he die? I wonder. Was he alone? Did he have a family? Friends? Loyal landscaping clients? There must have been others who actually stopped and talked to Bob, maybe giving him a job or a ride or a cigarette. Right? Someone else surely has been picking up the slack all these years for Weed-Wacker Bob… They must have!

But what if I’m wrong and everyone else on their way to the post office smiled and waved and drove right on by – just like me?

I set the bar low with Weed-Wacker Bob, and yet Jesus says:

“Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Matthew 7:12 (The Message)

I am faced on this day with a mirror of sorts, found in the pages of God’s Word. I don’t need to ask myself what I want from others – I know I set the bar high in that department. And there was clearly no initiative-grabbing going on in my head – no doing-it-for-them as I smiled and waved and drove on by.

And this is not okay.

I am not okay! I am disobedient, selfish, apathetic and lazy, but I am not okay.

I am in need of rescue, just like Weed-Wacker Bob and everyone else who has ever found themselves in a puddle of regret and despair and at the end of themselves. And yet – thanks be to God! – this is right where He wants us to be:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message)

That is good news, because today I’m feeling pretty darn less of and in desperate need of God’s more-than-enough.

Rest in Peace, Weed-Wacker Bob. Rest. In. Peace.

Christmas in July (cause)

Charity in the dictionary

Charity in the dictionary (Photo credit: HowardLake)

There are many ways for those of us who give gifts at Christmas to bless both the receiver and the one from whom we obtained the gift! Worthy causes exist all around us because of the broken world we live in. This Christmas, why not give strategically to benefit as many recipients as you can?

Secondhand Joy!

Decide early on (now would actually be good!) to purchase your gifts from local charity stores. My little community has thrift stores which benefit a wide range of agencies and organizations – Animal Friends, Humane Society, a local women’s shelter, the Salvation Army, Disabled American Veterans, support and education for families affected by autism... Do your homework and decide which cause will benefit from your Christmas shopping this season!

Do be aware that secondhand shopping is a little different from retail:

  • Best to start with a list of people rather than a list of items that you want to buy, then let things surprise you as you search for treasures.
  • It may take multiple visits to the same shops for the right gifts to surface – be patient (but know that the selection changes often and unpredictably as donations are received).
  • Combine theme-shopping with support of a cause for a way to give gifts with stories behind them. Search for things like funny t-shirts, jewelry boxes, antique mirrors, favorite book titles, mugs (to give with homemade drink mix) or glassware (to give with a bottle of your favorite wine).

Don’t underestimate the potential of thrift and charity stores to contain really nice, comparable-to-retail gifts! I’ve often found brand new appliances and clothing with store tags still attached, along with some well-preserved and very unique glassware and jewelry.

Group Giving

You’ve all heard of families where the adults have gone to a lottery-system of gifting, right? Everyone’s name goes into a hat and the name you withdraw is the one you will be gifting this year. Usually there is a dollar amount assigned, so that all gifts are in the same value-ballpark…

I have a friend whose family has taken this kind of system to a new and charitable level! Everyone’s name goes into the hat, but only one name comes out. A dollar amount is decided upon, and everyone gives their money to the lucky winner! This person is empowered to select a charity organization on behalf of the family. He or she does their homework and chooses a cause that matters to them personally. Whether the organization receives the money, or the money is used to buy items needed by the chosen cause, is up to the designated family member to decide. On Christmas morning, the adults in the family open a single wrapped gift which reveals the details of their family gift transaction!

Charitable Retail

Many organizations now offer goods for purchase that support their charity as an organization by providing jobs for individual beneficiary-craftsmen & women behind the scenes. It’s important to research these companies so that you know how much of your purchase goes to the business aspects of the charity and how much is returned to the craftsmen and women, but this kind of giving can be a powerful use of your gifting dollars. Here are a few websites to get you started:

Rahab’s Rope – Jewelry & accessories (you can even host an in-home product party through this organization that buys women out of the sex trade in India)

Equal Exchange – Fair trade coffee, tea & chocolate

One Hope – Social impact wine, with a portion of each bottle’s sale price going to specific and/or buyer-selected charities

Justice Ventures, International – This site offers products made by women who have been rescued from slavery and sex trafficking, with profits from sales working to buy more women into freedom

Some retail chain stores have product lines that support specific charitable efforts of their organization. Kohls Cares products support causes like kids’ health and education and breast cancer research, with a nice variety of inexpensive items offered online.

Charitable Gifts Bazaar

Holiday bazaars are offered at churches and in communities everywhere before Christmas – why not work to plan an event where each vendor sells products that support worthwhile causes? Invite organizations like the ones above to showcase their giftable items, but also encourage those who craft and create locally to donate items whose sales price (or a portion thereof) will be given to a cause. The details are up to you, but I’m certain that shoppers would support your charitable efforts!

Imagine the difference you could make around the world simply by choosing to give for a cause this Christmas!

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