Friday, January 11, 2013

Giving Back

After the initial shock of the car fire of Christmas 2012 wore off, Jay and I had to decide what to do next. Do we get another cheap, used car from another cash strapped college student? Do we get a more expensive used car from a dealership? Do we get a brand new car and go back into the realm of real car payments?

In the end, we decided on the brand new. Our other family car, while still awesome, (and I will always love it for safely moving our family to Oregon!) is getting up there in years and really, is it so wrong to have two reliable cars? (Let's not even mention the fact that my son will be learner's permit age in 7 months and we'll then have three drivers in the house. Sweet Jesus.)

So we have this brand new car, the car I've always wanted. The car I've dreamed of owning. It's so quiet, gets amazing mileage, smells wonderful, and it's really freaking cute. I get into it, push the button that starts it, and I feel like Fancy Tammie. (Seriously, it starts with the push of a button. When did this Jetson technology become a real thing? ) Honestly, the fact that I have this car is more shocking to me than the fact that my last car burned in front of my home while all of my neighbors watched.

And....then I feel guilty. I don't deserve this. How did I get so lucky? How did I end up living in this place I love, with this funny, wonderful, husband and these two crazy kids that I actually kind of like being around? I have great, sweet friends and a fun job and now I get to drive this car too?

I don't have answers to those questions. Hard work? Sure, we're hard workers. But six months ago we were hard workers and I was driving a much less amazing car. Also, a lot of people work hard. We aren't that special. Luck? Maybe. I don't really believe in that sort of thing, but who am I to say how or why things happen? I'd like to think that it's just the ebb and flow of things. Sometimes good things happen. Sometimes bad things happen. There are ups and downs. It's life.

But at this moment in my life I'm thinking more about what I can do to give back. If I get to be as happy as I am, I should try to make life happy for others, even if it's just for a little bit. So, I'm curious, how do you all give back? Because the more people I talk to, the more I realize that there are so many of you out there like me, average people of average means, wanting to do better, be kinder, and give more.

Here are some of the ways Jay and I have been giving back:

*Volunteering at the kids' schools. Obviously the easiest of volunteer options because our kids are there and we like them.

*Blessing Bags, although Jay and I prefer to call them Care Packages. Basically you fill a large Ziploc bag with items that a homeless person might need: toothpaste, high protein foods, dental floss, tissues, etc. Keep these bags in your car and when you spot someone who looks like they could use one, you hand it to them. Jay's handed out quite a few (my commute takes me in the opposite direction of those who need this sort of thing) and has been met with nothing but positive responses from recipients.  (This website has a great list of items for care packages.)

*Volunteering for causes we care about. Another no brainer. But it's so simple to go, I'd love to volunteer with XYZ, and then just never do it.  This past election season, Jay rocked this and I'm totally proud of him.

*The Food Bank. Oh My God. I went to our local food bank with a friend's Girl Scout Troop and it was such an eye opener. Here's the thing: Shit happens and anyone of us could need the Food Bank at anytime, and the fact of the matter is that a lot of people do. If I ever need it, I hope there is more on the shelves than creamed corn and cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. Jay and I try to pick up an item or two whenever we get groceries and when we have enough to fill a bag, we drop it off. It's truly a drop in the bucket, a small thing, but it's what we can do. (I think about this one a lot. Like, if I needed the food bank and there was nothing on the shelves that my kids would eat, how awful would that be? Because of this, I try to buy kid friendly foods, even though they aren't always the healthiest. Also, toilet paper. Food Banks need toilet paper!)

*Writing a check. This is the hardest for me because it's money leaving my account in a way that I can very clearly see. Money that I could easily spend on something fun. But I still try to do it a few times a year. I have silly rules about this one. For instance, if I can afford to spend a certain amount of money at Whole Foods (because they are stupid expensive), then I should, in turn, give money to the Portland Rescue Mission or another worthy cause. ( Like this one.) The key, I think, is finding causes that mean something to you or that you want to support, then it becomes easier.

Again, the things I've mentioned aren't major. None of them hit us really hard, but they are small ways that we can do good. Here are other ways:

*Visty's latest post about her time in Africa just made me ache.

*Maria Rose always has good ideas for Random Acts of Kindness. She's the master.

Tell me, how have you been giving?


DysFUNctional Mom said...

I haven't been doing much of anything lately, and I need to start, because it doesn't feel good. I just haven't had anything to give lately, financially, emotionally, time-wise, etc...
I used to mainly give by volunteering, fostering animals and doing the March for Babies.
Oh - B gave some chick $5 the other day that she was supposedly going to use for a cab ride home. Not sure how far $5 takes you as I'm not a frequent cab rider but

KiltiMcManus said...

Every so often I go down to the power company or the water company and I ask the clerk if they know of any family that has children that is about to have thier water or power shut off and they always come up with someone. Of course they are not allowed to tell you who the family is, but that doesn't matter. I just pay thier bill for them.

Nowheymama said...

My daughter and I always look at the food bank from a food allergy perspective. What if your kid was allergic to what's on the shelves? What can you give?

Tammie said...

cyndy: you have definitely been a long time giver.

kilti: i really like that idea. when you get behind on things like your power or electric, it's really hard to get caught up again.

nowhey: i love this because their definitely needs to be variety and options. in the past i had always given whatever i had leftover in my cabinet. but after visiting and hearing the statistics im much more mindful about what i donate.

Violet Marbles said...

I love that you feel more shocked about owning a new-new car than you were that your old one caught on fire. LOL That would so be me. I still think it's kind of comical that your car caught on fire in the first place.

Tammie said...

Jay here. The insurance lady (Flo) joked with me as I changed the insurance. "So you are dropping the '89 Cabriolet and adding the '12 Prius. Are you sure the fire was accidental?"

Visty said...

I try to tell certain people about my time in Ethiopia and how I felt coming home, but it just isn't something I can articulate. Let me tell you, going to Target for the first time after I got back--I just cried. And cried again in the grocery store.

I can't explain why I don't live in a dump. I also can't explain how I can ever, ever complain about anything after holding the hand of a barefoot toddler who does live in a dump.

But I do. Sometimes.

I guess it comes down to realizing that depriving your family of something it needs (a safe car that is not on fire) doesn't help those people in the dump anyway.

It's so hard to articulate, like I said before.

I'm glad you have your new little beautiful car and that my friend Tammie won't be ablaze on the side of the road anytime soon.

KiltiMcManus said...

Oh Thank God it's a Prius...LOL...from Tammies blogs I pictured her in a Smart Mini Car..

Daphne said...

I love this. And you totally deserve a new car; I got a new car in 05 and I've been really happy ever since; it's nice to have something efficient and reliable. I skimped in many other ways (and know you guys do too). I try to give back as much as I can, even if it's just the common courtesy of looking someone in the eye and smiling and saying hello, instead of looking away. I give money to people who tug at my heart, and always give to animal causes. I LOVE the care package idea and want to start doing that this year, as well as your "fill up a bag" food bank idea. I'm definitely doing both of those this year.

red raven said...

The person that mentioned they have paid strangers utility bills made me teary eyed. So sweet. So important.
I make hats for kids at the Ronald MacDonald House we lived at for 3 months last year. I had never given this organization a second thought before bit it is suddenly very near and dear to me. (I just had super preemie twins- but there were all sorts of families there that needed a little something to brighten that stressful/horrific/awful period of their lives)I hope it helps.
I love the idea of the ziplock bags of toiletries etc. And I definitely am going to adopt your accumulated bag of food to the food bank. You are right , too often I have just donated my odds and ends from the back of the pantry!
Thanks for this post-I was thinking of it as I spontaneously scraped the ice off a lady's windshield today so she didn't have to get out of her car too! Haha you can only appreciate that in Northern Climates!