Have you heard of Giving Tuesday? It is a wonderful counter balance to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. This new tradition was started last year to help bring back the focal point from how much you can receive, to how much you can give to those in need. While many communities, bloggers and journalists are focusing on specific charities and organizations to highlight for Giving Tuesday, I’ve decided to pay homage to a lesser-hyped, yet equally important group of individuals: our neighbors.
Once upon a time, when I was a young child, my mom, sister and I were homeless for a brief period. It didn’t last very long, but it was uncomfortable to say the least. We had a car and blankets and “stuff” in boxes and storage, but nowhere that was ‘ours’ to lay our heads. My mom contemplated whether she had enough money to drive hundreds of miles back to her mom’s house, or whether she had too much pride to do so. In the end, it was through the kindness of our neighbors that we got through that rough patch. They let us stay with them until my mom got back on her feet again.
After that brief stint of homelessness, my mom was a working-poor, single mom. She worked two and sometimes three jobs so that we could stay in a nicer neighborhood and have a better education. We lived in a duplex. Our duplex neighbor was also a single mom of two. She and my mom would trade time and favors, watching each other’s kids, bringing each other food and generally being there for each other. If one got to the food bank before it closed, she would grab something she knew the other would need, too. Sometimes my mom worked late, sometimes our neighbor worked late, but we always had something to eat and someone to watch us.
Education in Need
After I got married and had children of my own, I volunteered as much as possible at my children’s elementary school. I became the Legislative VP for the local PTA and then the Chairperson for the Community Council. I helped each of my children’s teachers in their classrooms weekly. Now that I am divorced I don’t have the time to volunteer at school anymore. I am saddened by that (I really miss reading to children!) but ever so grateful for my neighbors who can. They are there for their children, my children, and your children too.
I have the best neighbors in the world. It’s true. The Gareys welcomed us not only to the neighborhood, but also into their lives. My neighbors have been known to give me a hug – or a glass of wine – should I need one (sometimes both). If I need an emergency babysitter, the Gareys are there in a pinch. Can’t get my car to start? No problem, the Gareys have AAA. Need a tool you just can’t find? The Gareys will have it – and likely help you get the job done, too. The Gareys are the kind of neighbors that volunteer their time at school without hesitation. They feed our cat when we go out of town. They look after my kids when I can’t, knowing I will reciprocate gladly. They are more than just neighbors – they are friends. They epitomize all that Giving Tuesday represents: Giving what they have to those who don’t.
So this year, on Giving Tuesday, I urge you to be the good neighbor. Give thanks to neighbors that have helped you along the way. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the kindness of neighbors throughout my life, and I’ll bet you wouldn’t either.
Don’t have neighbors? Find a local charity you can donate a bit of your time, money or goods to. Being a good neighbor doesn’t mean you have to help someone right next door. It means helping those in your community that have less than you. It can be a homeless shelter, a food bank, the local elementary school, a toy drive, or even volunteering your time with the elderly. Here is a list of local Portland charities in need.