Tag Archives: charity

What do you do with a kind gesture?

Are you good at returning a kindness? When someone does something nice for you, do you reciprocate? Or, do you pass along the kindness? Or do you just think, “that was nice of them,” and go on about your business?

I often tell the story of my mother leaving Arkansas for California, back in the late 1930s, with two small children and everything she and my father owned crowded into a Model A Ford. Just as they were ready to pull out, a lady from church came up the driveway to say goodbye and give my mother a twenty dollar bill. That was big money in the depression/dust bowl era. My mother was reluctant to take the money, saying she would never be able to pay it back.

The church lady assured her she didn’t need the money to be paid back, but rather for my mother to find someone else to help once she reached California. My mother was always on the lookout for someone to help. It might have been a family with small children whose home burned. Perhaps the lady whose husband just died. Or it might have been the hobo who came to the backdoor, asking for a bite to eat. My mother was generous.

Because I grew up seeing that generosity (my dad also did things for people in the small farming community in which we lived), I’m often on the lookout for those in need and ask myself, “how can I help?” Sometimes there is nothing I can do. Or I don’t feel compelled to help at that particular time, believing others will step in and take care of the situation. Because there are so many needs, I now try to contain my help to my small corner of the community. Otherwise, I would feel overwhelmed.

I am fortunate and richly blessed and don’t need much assistance. For now. I’m hopeful that should I need help, there would be those to come to my aid, like the lady in Arkansas who showed up with the $20. That those who have been helped would step up and help out when presented with a need, like my mother did all those years in California. I just hope that you don’t become so accustomed to kind acts that you come to expect them as your due, never paying them back or forward.


Feeding the hungry in a land of plenty

When I shop at Whole Foods, I have the option of getting a refund for the bags I bring in which to put my groceries or donating that money to a local nonprofit organization. Depending on the organization, I usually donate. Today, I hesitated. The organization for this month’s donations, Community Food Bank, is a good one. They feed thousands of hungry people here in the San Joaquin Valley, the same valley that produces the food to feed the world. Whole Foods not only donates cash to the organization but also provides food stuffs, too. The Community Food Bank, along with numerous charities, is constantly begging the public to donate food and/or money. But, today’s newspaper, The Fresno BEE, (click here to read) brings a story that halts one in their tracks and makes one rethink this pleading for donations.

A local grower has a field of green beans he cannot economically harvest, but he cannot get any local charity to come get the beans, either. The crop will probably be disced under. And yet, the charities clamor for food. Here is free food. Ah, but the rub is that it takes labor to harvest. Although many want to eat the free food, no one wants to do the work to get the raw product from the field. It is a quandary. The Community Food Bank, who feeds thousands, cannot find any workers to go pick the beans. It’s probably a good thing I’m not in charge. I might say that if you want to pick up free food from the distribution center, then you have to be willing to do some of the work it takes to get it here.

I am hopeful that there will be a follow-up to the story. That some agency will step forward with enough manpower to harvest the beans and distribute the crop to those who could use the food. If that happens, I’ll let you know.

Here are the green beans we got in this week’s CSA box:


Food, eating, and my mother’s philosophy

I love to eat. I love good food. And, if you look at my photos, you can see that I certainly eat plenty! I like to cook my own food as I’m always leery of restaurants and processed food. As a child, my mother cooked and baked every day. She too was a good cook, most of the time. There were certain foods she made that I did not like. Such as her stew. I make waaaay better stew than my mother ever did. If she made something I did not like, however, I did not have to eat it. She always said, “if you’re hungry, you’ll eat it; otherwise, you can do without.” It was her mantra at mealtime!

We lived out in the country when I was growing up, but on a main highway, and not far from a railroad track. We often heard the trains going past as there was little in the way to compete with the sound of the whistle and the wheels on the tracks. Because of our proximity to the tracks, and our location on a road heading to the big city, we often had hobos coming through our farm. One night, during cotton picking season, when we still handpicked and the trailers were parked in the front yard, Daddy found a hobo sleeping in a cotton trailer. He was not amused and chased him off. Daddy was very particular about his cotton. My mother, on the other hand, helped out any hobo who came to the door.

One day, in particular, I remember a raggedy looking man at the back porch, asking for food. My mother said she had some leftover stew she could heat up for him. (This was decades before microwave ovens so the heating would take some time.) He said that was unnecessary, he’d eat it cold, right out of the bowl. I still see, in my mind’s eye, that man, sitting on the back step, long, scruffy gray hair, wearing a denim jacket that had seen better days, hunkered over, eating the stew. I watched him for awhile from the screen door until my mother chased me off. When he was done, he left the bowl and spoon, licked clean, sitting on the step, and went back out the gate he had come through.

My mother would remind me, when I didn’t want to eat something, that I might find myself, some day, in a place where cold stew would even taste good. I’m hopeful if that day should ever come, that I would find myself in the backyard of someone as good as my mother who believed you helped people wherever you found them.