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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sharing to Prosper

"You have to be able to share to prosper in this world." -- Curtis Naseyowma, carver of kachinas, representations of benevolent spirits.

The timing of this quote in today's paper is so appropriate. We are now in the traditional season of sharing. Halloween is barely behind us, but the stores are filled with Christmas music, brightly decorated trees and special displays to entice shoppers to spend their money.

This time of year causes me to more greatly appreciate my blessings, and as a result, I am more generous in my charitable donations. I donate a considerable amount of time, money and food throughout the year. But there is something about this season that makes me want to do more than usual. And I am fortunate to be able to share my bounty, when so many in this country are in need.

Maybe it's the thought of people going hungry at Thanksgiving, a time when Americans traditionally stuff themselves. As a volunteer at a local food pantry, I see the faces of hungry people every week. Maybe it's the thought of the homeless, cold and hungry as the nighttime temperatures drop into the 30s. I have always hated cold weather, and spending a cold night outside is unimaginable. Maybe it's the Christmas season that makes me more aware of how blessed I have been, and continue to be.

I have a beautiful house to keep me cool in summer, warm in winter, and dry when it rains or snows. I have nice clothes and warm coats. I have food in the pantry and in the freezer. I never have to wonder where I will get my next meal, or think about making my food stretch until I can get more from the food pantry or food bank.

Lately, I have found myself touched more than usual by the stories of abused animals in need of veterinary treatment. I was moved by the appeal for funds from a shelter for the homeless in Albuquerque. A friend from the food pantry and I have signed up to work a shift at the biggest food bank in New Mexico, and to deliver cases of bottled water to a homeless shelter. I have taken advantage of sales at local grocery stores to purchase cans of hearty, non-condensed soup for $1 each for the food pantry. I'm sending a check to the sister of a friend who has lost everything as she struggles to survive a second bout of cancer and pay for her medical treatments.

These are all small acts. I mention them not to pat myself on the back or to seek glory or acclaim. I'm not that kind of person. I do what I do because it makes me feel good to help, and because I feel obligated to share my blessings with those less fortunate. 

There are so many ways to share that don't require a great deal of money. Buy an extra can or two of soup or vegetables when they are on sale, and donate them. At this time of year, there are collection barrels for non-perishable food in many grocery stores. If you have a garden or fruit trees, consider donating some fresh produce to your local food bank or pantry. Volunteer a few hours a week for whatever cause moves you. Be a big brother or big sister to an at-risk child. Help a child with homework. Teach someone to read. Help immigrants learn English. Visit a lonely person in a nursing home. Walk dogs at an animal shelter, or foster a cat until it can be adopted.

My family was not wealthy, yet we we were taught, by example, to help others. My mother was active in church activities that raised funds for a variety of programs. My father bought cases of canned goods and donated them to the annual food drive held by his assisted living facility. After his death, we donated non-perishable food from his condo to the local food bank, as he would have wanted. My sister donated the furniture, lamps and linens from his condo to several immigrant housekeepers, who were thrilled to accept these items for their families.

I believe that sharing does make me prosper. The dictionary defines prosperous as "having or characterized by financial success or good fortune." I feel prosperous because I have a wealth of blessings and good fortune. And I have the rewards that come from sharing my time, talents and resources with others. So yes, I do feel prosperous.

I hope that my daughter also learns the true meaning of prosperity and the spirit of giving to others, and that she will carry on our family tradition. If I can pass on to her a generosity of spirit, a willingness to serve others and an appreciation for her blessings, I will have done my job.

May you also prosper through your sharing.