What Can You Give to Help Others?

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On Sunday, I got up at some miserably early hour—even earlier than usual—to prepare fleece so the children in religious school could make blankets for needy babies. Another teacher and I met at the synagogue before the children arrived to trim fleece and cut fringe around the edges so the children could tie two pieces of fabric together to make nice, warm, double-layered blankets.

We teach them to give, but it has more meaning if you do more than tell them about the importance of helping others, so we have them actually do things.

In this case, Sisterhood (the women’s group at our synagogue) has brought in newborn clothing, receiving blankets, caps, booties, and such to donate to a local hospital to make up layettes to give to babies from disadvantaged families. Each year, they give away 100 or more layettes: The equivalent of one month’s births at that hospital.

I suspect it will get worse. Remember Exubera, the inhaled insulin? It was made at the Pfizer plant here. When Exubera was taken off the market, we lost 650 jobs. Then Pfizer decided to close the rest of the plant. More jobs down the tubes. Another place, which makes semi trailers, has laid off a couple of hundred people because the credit crunch resulted in a major drop in orders. I haven’t heard what’s happening at the plastics plants here, but I do know that plastic is petroleum-based, so I can guess. One makes bags for retailers, and sales are down. Another makes the plastic pellets that are used to make consumer goods and building materials.

When the “big guy” dominoes start to fall, they begin taking restaurants, retailers, and small businesses down with them.

Yes, it’s going to get worse. And more than babies will be needing help.

The need for food is generally pretty obvious, especially at this time of year. Yesterday, I discovered two bags on my porch from organizations collecting food. There also are a couple of places in underprivileged neighborhoods that prepare meals for the children in the area and donations are always welcome. They also don’t mind if you call and ask “what do you need?” whether it be food, or coloring books and crayons, school supplies and such.

Beyond that, what can those of us who are fortunate to have more than enough do? I gave up on yard sales and consignment shops a long time ago (too much trouble for what you get) and now just give my grandchildren’s outgrown and unwanted clothing to a couple of places in town that give them to needy children.

Freecycle is a great place. Go to www.freecycle.org, find the one in your area, and sign up. If you need something, you ask. If you want to get rid of something, you post it. There’s no buying or selling; it’s all free.

We’re about to do some computer-switching at our house. I got a new one, so the one I’m using now will go to my granddaughter, and hers (as was her brother’s before) will be given to a place that refurbishes them and either uses them there or passes them along to schoolchildren who don’t have a computer. (The children earn credits to “buy” the computers.)

I cleaned out my “diabetes drawer” and came up with two boxes of syringes, a box of glucose strips for a meter I no longer use, some insulin pump supplies, and I forget what else. Whatever it was filled a shopping bag. Some things go to the free clinic and some to the diabetes education center.

If you don’t “have,” you can still give—of yourself. Do you know enough about diabetes to be a mentor at the free clinic in your town? Can you file, answer the phone, or put together bags of diabetes-related samples and educational materials for a place? If you know how to prepare healthy, inexpensive meals, can you give a cooking demonstration?

We need to take care of others—at any time, and especially in these trying times. If you’ve never done it, try it: It’ll make you feel good.

The children learned that lesson on Sunday, pulling their parents over as they came to pick them up to show them what they had made, knowing the labor of their hands would be given away even as they cuddled the blankets and rubbed their faces on the soft fleece.

As one little second-grader proclaimed, her face just beaming, “I did a mitzvah today!”

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