If you’re like me, you might be a bit ashamed to admit that you’re in desperate need of a post-holidays detox and/or diet. And, if you’re really like me, part of the shame comes not so much from listing the minor infractions (yes, eating 2 krembos in 1 sitting is a *minor*) but from realizing that in the moments during these past two weeks when my stomach was the most full, my glass overflowing and my laughter unceasing, I wasn’t as aware of the less fortunate as I could have and should have been.
On my drive home on Monday night (after sundown, as the temperatures started to dip), I pulled off of 94 onto the Lexington Ave exit and noticed a man standing on the side of the ramp. He was bundled up as best as he could be against the frigid wind and was holding a sign that read, simply “Homeless. Humbled.” I typically prefer to donate to organizations but I felt compelled to do something for this man. Like many people my age, I don’t usually carry cash so didn’t have anything to give. Until I remembered that I had recently restocked my “car snack” stash and had Nutrigrain bars in my glove box. The light was turning green but there was nobody behind me (and I wouldn’t have cared if there was at that point), so I rolled down my window and said “I don’t have any cash but I do have some Nutrigrain bars if you’re hungry.” The man’s eyes light up with appreciation as he reached for the box with a “Thank you. That is so awesome.” As I turned the corner, I could see him eagerly opening the bars with his ungloved hands. And I realized, as I drove the remaining mile home to my warm apartment with a stocked fridge and a chanukkiah waiting to be lit, that I was the one who had been humbled.
I don’t tell you the story to make myself seem like a wonderful person – in fact, I thought long and hard about whether or not I should tell it in case it might come across that way. I’m telling the story because I can’t stop thinking about the man’s eyes as he accepted a small box of snacks. In every meal I’ve eaten since that exchange, I’ve felt a profound sense of gratitude and a heightened awareness of how lucky blessed I am to not have to worry about whether or not there will be food on the table for the next one.
I hope that many of you have felt that same gratitude in these past few weeks (or better yet – always) and that you’ve used it as reminder to give tzedakah (which is technically something we do out of obligation, not out of fuzzy warm feelings but you get the point). If you haven’t already done so or if it’s time to give some more, I hope that you’ll join me in helping feed those who are hungry. If you’re not entirely sure where to start, check out Second Harvest Heartland or Mazon. Don’t forget that volunteering your time or advocating to end hunger are also important ways to help.
And, if you’re really like me, let’s set ourselves reminders to be more mindful. I’ll be taking a cue from my mother (how wise is that woman?!) and placing a “hunger piggy” (devoted completely to hunger relief) in my kitchen where it will be noticed as I prep meals. Yes, it’s probably a bit sacrilegious to have a piggy bank tzedakah box in my Jewish kitchen, so if you ever see a moo-moo bank, just let me know.
Your turn: what will you do/have you done to keep yourself mindful of the less fortunate and remember to help as much as your able? Let’s share ideas in the comments below. Bonus points for creativity and ease of execution!
(Photo: Daquella manera)
Every evening on my commute home from work, I pass the same homeless guy on the same corner. I always think about him but because I work in New York and see so many less fortunate, I have never stopped to do anything. It’s really important to have reminders like this. Even if it’s just a cereal bar, or a warm beverage, or a $1 bill–anything helps and you’re so very right. I’m sure your nutrigrain bar meant more than you could ever imagine to this man.
It’s not by chance that we celebrate with lights during the darkest season. We need to transfer that fire to our community for sake of compassion and hope. Mustn’t let the waning flickers in some extinguish. Like the candelabra they also need a “Helper” to keep the fire burning bright enough to dispel the dark.
About six years ago, my Grandma and I started a tradition for our birthdays in early December. Instead of giving each other gifts – we donated to the charity of the other’s choice. This year Gram passed away, but on her birthday, I bought a gigantic laundry basket filled with toiletries and household items for adults and kids and donated it to a charity on behalf of both of us. The way I see it, we gave that gift to each other. My oldest sister shares a birthday that week too. This year for the first time, I donated to her favorite no-kill animal shelter. She can’t stop talking about what a great gift it was! I intend to make it my tradition with her now too.
@Charlotte: Let’s make a promise to each other that we’ll both try really hard to really see those around us.
@Gabe: Love your imagery. What a beautiful thought to keep in our minds. And, I wonder if doesn’t go both ways. I know that it certainly did the other night for me.
@Nikki: What a beautiful tradition you started with your Grandma (may her memory be a blessing)! And your memorial gift in honor of her birthday was brilliant – that’s a great idea that I’m going to borrow.
What a wonderful post, Emily C Cornell. I’m certain your gift of Nutri Grains passed on more than fruit-product filled goodness to that man that day. You provided a reminder that there is good in people.
I donated to Second Harvest last week and think I should make more of a habit of it.