Tag Archives: Charity

180924 – Dear Diary #1

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~ ]

Am I “in the mood” for this? Can’t say, but let’s try.

Good morning diary. I know you have no idea who I am, or why I would be addressing you in such familiar terms. Well neither do I. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Introductions, perhaps? My name is Sha’Tara. Pleased to meet you. No, don’t read between the lines, I know I’m pretending but we have to start somewhere.

Where? Well, we’re in my back yard under a very bright Autumn sun and enjoying the latent heat. Got the garden mostly cleaned up – this is a text editor so no pictures – and I’m looking at some little things I could do to “the homestead” to forestall some more frost damage due to those bitter eastern winds I’m anticipating by at least 3 months! I think closing that garage entrance “wind tunnel” with a wide half-glass door would be good.

For now, everything is very green and lawns are still being mowed, including a contract one I have to get to tomorrow afternoon on “Little Mountain”. I’ll try to get some pictures, something I’m definitely not reliable at doing. That’s it for the small talk, diary. Now to what I really meant to say.

I woke up this morning, as on so many mornings now, with a weight on my heart as if I was carrying the whole world. Was it due to dreams? I don’t know, I cannot remember having any, just the weight that with a nice light breakfast of protein mix and a slice of thick, raisin toast, seemed to lighten up. The feeling is still here though, as if it is begging to be analyzed and understood.

I’ll tell you what, diary. I think these heavy mornings are due to a rise in my level of empathy, stretching out further and farther upon the planet, picking up “stuff” that unfortunate “others” are experiencing. Wouldn’t that make sense? It cannot be from my own life: there’s nothing personal in it that one could label as negative. Peace, relative quiet, health, enough money to live comfortably, a small mortgage carefully managed. A few friends also carefully “managed” so there are no cling-ons in the mix. So, definitely not about me.

What about “out there”? Well I know that there is a lot of trouble brewing and spewing out in many places. I know there are literally millions of people, animals and “others” suffering terribly because of the greed and presumption of some and an uncaring attitude from many. Am I one of those, diary? If I take my comfortable life as pivot point, then yes, certainly I could be accused of not caring.

But it’s not that simple, is it. I know that I could throw in the towel, as far as this middle class lifestyle of mine is concerned, settle my “debt” with the bank and take the left-overs, something like a half a million dollars of “cold hard cash” and go out into the wild blue yonder looking for more effective ways to help the downtrodden. Yes, technically that is a possibility. But realistically?

Back to working with those ubiquitous “charitable organizations” being told how to dress; how to behave towards others; how to speak and what to say – most of the emphasis being on conformity to some group rather than on the work at hand. Chances of that happening, diary? Nil. Binder Dundat, never again.

Other possibility, give it all away. Sure, then become a burden on “the State”? No, that isn’t happening either. And at my age, how long in any case before the body does a back flip and it’s all over?

So, back to analysis of this heavy feeling upon awakening – using that term in the literal and etheric way. It isn’t about “me” doing “more” for the oppressed, it’s really about sharing that place and space with “them”. It is how true empathy develops and makes its home in the mind and body. If I live with this growing sense of empathy I know that it puts me in a differnt space, from selfish to selfless. If-when someone calls for help I know I will be “on-call”, ready and willing to respond. That’s what this is all about: a tuning of one’s attitude to the world, from one of taking, to one of permanently ready and willing to give or share.

Right now. From right here, from within my comfort zone, independently in charge of my choices and movements, self empowered and fully responsible. What do you think of that analysis, diary?

Jeanine Winslow

[short story  by Sha’Tara]

Devon avenue is an old street with old trees, old houses and old people. This is where Jeanine Winslow lives, with her old cat. She is a widow now, her old husband died about two years ago, but no one remembers that except Jeanine and the Revenue Service. Jeanine’s house and home is one of the most decrepit small bungalow type houses on the street.

Today is a grey day. It’s raining, a cold, miserable rain that hits the skin as frozen needles. Jeanine’s arthritis is bad today, that being one reason she has been unable to go to the corner store. The other reason, of course, is that as usual the month outlasted the pension and there is not one red cent left in the house. The cat is the fortunate one, he can go outside and hunt mice. There are lots of nice fat mice in his neighbourhood. Yes, it’s his neighbourhood, he’s a cat.

There’s a steady tinkling sound in the small dining room, just behind where Jeanine is now standing and contemplating her situation.  There’s an old, rusty water can on the floor to catch a steady drip from the ceiling, a drip that keeps wandering as the drywall gradually sags lower from the water coming through the old worn out asphalt shingle roof.

A knock on the door takes Jeanine out of her circular thinking about a situation she has no control over. Wiping her tears, she goes and answers the door. On the rickety old porch, long without a roof, two very well dressed young men with briefcases smile at her. She smiles back and politely invites them in. They come in and begin their spiel.

They’re from the local “Tabernacle” they say, and they are collecting funds to finish the inside of their church, and inviting their neighbours to participate in the services.

The tinkling continues as Jeanine, sitting nervously on a small stool, the only two chairs taken by the young men, listens politely. One of the young men stares at the drip in the can, then follows it to the sagging ceiling. It impresses itself on his mind as his father is the owner of a local lumber yard and he’s done some construction himself. He understands this lady’s problem but says nothing, letting his partner do the talking.

Finally the spiel is over. They stand, realizing that this woman was certainly not made of money and perhaps they’d have better luck on another street. They make to leave when suddenly Jeanine finds her courage and her tongue to say something to these nice young men. She does not berate them or call down their religion, or their God. Far from that. Jeanine is a very kind lady. But there is something she needs to do.

She grabs the coat sleeve of one young man and say, “Please, don’t go yet. There is something here I need to show you. Please follow me?”

They follow as she leads them deeper into the old house, through a short, dark corridor. She opens the door to a tiny bedroom and in the bed, two small children, obviously a boy and girl and obviously siblings, sleep, the little girl sucking her thumb, the little boy having his arm over her in a protective way.

“I found them downtown five days ago, she says. They were crying and hungry, abandoned as so many are. What could I do but take them home, feed them, wash them and provide them with a bit of warmth and the comfort of a few sheets and blankets? I have nothing to dress them in and their own clothes were nothing but dirty rags. Now… I have nothing left to feed them. I just wanted you to know that it is not because I’m stingy that I didn’t give you anything, it’s that I don’t have anything… nothing. I’m sorry.”

The two very nice young men looked at each other and something flashed between them, some thoughts that found agreement. The oldest of the two, the one who had done the presentation, spoke then.

“We’re sorry too, very sorry. Look, here’s forty dollars that I have on me. Take that for now, and I promise we will be back.”

The younger searched his own pockets and came up with another fifteen dollars and some change. He also handed that over.

With a trembling hand, Jeanine took the money and the look on her face showed all the gratitude that words could never express. The young men left and Jeanine, knowing the children could be trusted to stay in the bed, got dressed for the cold and wet, painfully put her winter boots on and went shopping, slowly dragging her old two wheeled cart and counting her steps as was her habit.

Two days later, early morning, the storm having passed and the pale winter sun having made his appearance in a bright blue sky, a construction truck loaded with roofing materials and several cars pulled up along Devon avenue, close to Jeanine Winslow’s cottage. One man walked up to Jeanine’s front door while the rest, a crew of some seven men and three women, began to unload the truck and wheelbarrow the materials to the house. Ladders came next.

The “foreman” whose name is Jason Farnham and none other than the owner of the lumber yard, had gone to speak to Jeanine and got her shocked OK, for the work to proceed forthwith. The old roof was quickly peeled off and the happy pounding of air nailers and commands hurled back and forth filled the yard. Two women, one a strong teenager, the other, middle aged, went into the house and after moving the meagre furniture and spreading a tarp, pulled down the damp drywall. While finishing they explained to Jeanine,

“We’re sorry about the rush but the drywallers are only available tomorrow. They’ll start at 10:00 AM sharp and they’ll be done the hanging by noon. We’ll be back to finish the taping and mudding tomorrow afternoon. Any mess, we will clean up and we’ll paint next week. Is all this OK with you, Mrs. Winslow?”

“I… Yes, of course, yes…” She sat, small and quiet, with her big tomcat in her lap, her face in her hands. She didn’t know what to make of all that was happening. She thought, maybe she should just let it happen. And that’s what she did: let it happen. She went to the children’s bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed where they were occupied drawing and colouring. They looked up at her and smiled and her heart nearly burst with joy.

The small, basic roof was completed in record time and while the roof crew was cleaning up and running the magnet along the walls for stray nails, the foreman went back in the house, expressed his satisfaction on the removal of the old damp drywall then addressed Jeanine.

“Mrs. Winslow, I must apologize for our brisk performance but we just wanted to get this done in the shortest time while the sun was shining. We didn’t want to leave you as your situation was described to us so we put our emergency crew together, gathered the materials and soon I promise, your life will be back to normal, minus the roof worry. We will also put a new roof on your front porch. That, and new steps, comes later this week. I would have called you, and certainly we should have sent someone to warn you, but you don’t have a phone and we didn’t think there was any option either for you, or us so we decided to act instead of debate. My son Steve, whom you’ve met, was very persuasive and quite insistent.

“We will need to talk about the two children you are harbouring. The situation will have to be, shall we say, legalized? We have a couple of very compassionate people who we rely on to discuss these situations. Would you agree to meeting with them?”

“Yes I very much would. I know I can’t keep them but I need to know they will be sent to a good home. They really are wonderful kids, you know? I wish I could have them meet all of you but I’ve got them wrapped up in old clothes of mine and my husband. I haven’t been able to go shopping for children’s clothes, I’m sorry.”

“Did you get that, Leona? The kids need clothing. Could you leave the clean up to the rest of the crew and go get some children’s clothes from our good will box? If you can’t find anything there, please go and buy em.”

“OK, sure Jason. Be back shortly.”

“Leona’s my wife, we’re a team! I’ve got to go, Mrs. Winslow but there’s a couple of things to settle yet. First, here’s a check for $500 to help you get through this time. Second, and most importantly, everything we did, or will do, for you, is our choice. You owe us nothing and we certainly do not expect you to join or attend our church or any such thing. You will not be embarrassed by having to give any testimony. When we’re finished, we’re finished. Certainly, should you need further help you are welcome to get in touch with us – use the lumber yard – but that’s it. We are very happy to have the means to help you and others like yourself. Is that all OK with you then?”

“Yes Mr. Farnham. Yes it is. Thank you.”

 

 

Another Gift of the Magi

(Short story from The Other Side  by Sha’Tara)

(According to my trusty old MS Word, this short story is five pages long.  Therefore, so as not to take up too much of your time, I’m posting it in three “installments.”  Some of the title is of course borrowed from the famous Christmas short story “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.  A simplistic short story written to demonstrate the spirit of Christmas; also the joys and real dangers inherent to self empowerment.)

Ariana and Sylvia were twins and they were inseparable.  They did most things together and were seldom found far from each other.  Even as they grew older, they shared their times and even their friends.  When their parents divorced, they were ten years old.  In their innocent wisdom, they decided to “share” themselves between the parents.  Sylvia went with her dad and Ariana remained with her mother.  So every time the girls wanted to be together one parent or the other had to bring her over.  Thus, over a period of time, and even after they were re-married, the parents developed a deep friendship as they watched their children playing or talking together.

After their parents separated, both girls, raised nominally Catholic, began to consider their faith and returned to the Church, attending and helping organize various functions.  They shared the same intense belief in what the Church stood for.

Both grew into beautiful young women and over-achievers.  They were heading to college when Ariana told her sister that she had decided to enter the convent and become a nun. 

“I want to try on Mother Teresa’s shoes Sylvia, see how they fit and how long I can walk in them before they kill me!”  Mother Teresa had been their childhood heroine.

Being Catholic, entering the convent was not an issue.  Men and women were both desperately needed by the Church.  Sylvia cried when her sister put on the veil and became Sister Celeste.  She accepted her sister’s choice as they had always accepted each other’s choices.  Sylvia went to college then on to university intent on getting a medical degree.

After a few years Ariana, now Sister Celeste, confided her passion to Sylvia as they spent a Christmas day afternoon together. 

“I want to open a hospice for the homeless downtown.  It’s my dream, Syl.  It’s my passion, my inspiration.” 

“And how does your Order and the Church feel about that?” 

“If I can get private funding to open it and keep it going and convince at least four other sisters to join me, they’ll bless it.  Problem is, I don’t have any contacts I could use to raise the money.” 

“How much money do you need to start?” 

“I need at least one hundred thousand dollars to open.  I’ve got a tentative tender on a lease already.  After that, I don’t know.” 

Sylvia took her sister’s hands in hers and looking into her eyes, said: “Has God ever failed either of us, sister?”

“No, never.”  she replied, smiling.

“Then go ahead.  Do this and you will get the money… I promise!”

They talked some more.  That day they swore an oath to each other, that no matter what the circumstances, no matter the distance, they would always spend Christmas day together. 

Silvia sold her new car.  She broke her engagement and when he told her to keep the ring, she sold that.  She maxed her student loans and canvassed the campus and all her well-heeled friends.   A few weeks later, near the end of January, Sister Celeste received a call from the bank where she had opened her “hope account” for the hospice.  There was a one hundred thousand dollar anonymous donation in the account.

Ariana opened her hospice and from the very start it was a success.  A brilliant manager and tireless, she drove her staff and herself to meet the needs of the homeless.  Abandoned children were found temporary homes; pregnant girls were sheltered and placed here and there.  The sick and the dying found a place of refuge there — a warm place, not an institution.  She was often heard saying, “Unfortunately, our business is probably the busiest in town.  We’ll never go broke from lack of customers.”

(end part 1 of 3)