Unemployment is at 8.8% nationally, and is at a sadly higher 9.5% here in Oregon, according to Google's latest statistics. This is hardly news in a day when reports of evictions, robo-signing scandals, and protests against the struggling economic state of the union run rampant across our TV screens. As families struggle to keep their fiscal heads above water, donations to many charities, including food banks, have dropped sharply this year, enabling them to help fewer people, as requests for help have hit record highs. Many of us, who are too old and creaky to camp in the park, have thrown up our hands in frustrated gestures of helplessness in response to the newest accounts of families being expelled from their homes, while bank executives rake in multi-million dollar bonuses.
As we cluck our collective tongues and agree. "It sure is a shame the way things are these days," there are those among us who have been moved, by the spirit of the season, to help others. Outside the Macy's store, in downtown Portland, someone dropped a rare gold coin, worth $1,600, into the shiny red Salvation Army kettle.
Similarly, a $2,000 wedding ring was found in the Salvation Army kettle outside the Pinecrest, FL Kmart. The ring was wrapped in a $50 bill and a touching note, which read, "They need it more than I. Do good!" and was signed "A friend."
Meanwhile, "layaway angels" have been paying off layaway bills for childrens' holiday presents at stores across the country. These angels have paid bills ranging from $50 to $1,000, and have made it possible for multiple struggling families to put presents under trees this year.
When I first heard about the layaway angels, I assumed some eccentric billionaire had sent "agents" across America to execute the program of generosity. This doesn't appear to be the case. Apparently, average citizens have been inspired; by a trend, which reportedly began in Michigan; to perpetuate the charitable practice. Perhaps the most emotive aspect to this fad of good-will is the fact that everything is given anonymously. There's no motive to improve one's status by appearing generous, no tripping over one's tongue to try to thank someone, it's simply about giving during the holidays.
A bit less holiday oriented, but impressive nonetheless, local 13 year old, Julien Leitner, has begun the Archimedes Alliance. The goal of the alliance is to use social media to encourage one million people to contribute $2 each toward making the world a better place. Before you roll your eyes and mutter, "Pfft," you should understand this kid has arranged for the the Charitable Partnership Fund to hold the money until all one million contributors have voted on where to send the full $2,000,000. As I write this, $6,321 have been raised, and Outreach International is winning with 108 votes.
Forget the fact that he has a long row to hoe to reach $2,000,000. Putting that aside fr a moment, the investment in time and dedication, Julien has made, is inspiring. When I was thirteen, I was thinking about; girls, comic books, and pro wrestling; and this kid's actively trying to improve4the world.
Finally, NBC Nightly News has reported that in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Miss Anette Dove left a lucrative job and used her own money to begin a non-profit organization. TOPPS (Targeting Our People’s Priorities With Service) is dedicated to feeding the hungry children in Jefferson County. If feeding countless children since 2002 wasn't note worthy enough, this year, at the request of an over committed branch of the Salvation Army, Miss Dove networked with a local church to provide Christmas packages (meals & toys) to 167 families who would have otherwise gone without this year.
Say what you will about banking, the economy, politics, foreign relations, etc... Yes, we have problems to overcome and battles to fight. Be that as it may, this time of year seems to spark the generosity of the human spirit to life. Some acts of kindness flood the media, while others, such as cookies left on doorsteps, go unnoticed by all but the recipient. Some givers are well known, while others perform their deed and disappear into the shadows, never to be thanked. In all cases, these doers of good serve as examples to society, reminding us of what the world could be all year.
Below are links to charities you can donate to this holiday season.
| Meals On Wheels | Loaves & Fishes | Portland's Sunshine Division |
| Archimedes Alliance | TOPPS (Targeting Our People’s Priorities With Service) |