>Western Tribune Column December 3 2008

>Here is this weeks column from The Western Tribune.

During the next few weeks we will all be deluged with requests for donations to charitable organizations that do much of their fundraising during the holiday season. Americans don’t mind giving as we always respond in big ways following national disasters and requests from big name groups with hopes that our dollars actually find their way to meet the needs of those in despair.

But there are needy people closer to home, and we don’t always have to depend on others to put our resources to good use. A pastor in Decatur, Alabama, who found that his church had taken in more money than they knew what to do with, distributed the money back to the members in envelopes with instruction to use it to bless someone else.

Some members pooled their money and many added to the amount in the envelope. One couple that lives in a neighborhood where people are struggling used their money to repair bicycles and buy safety helmets for neighborhood boys.

Many of us realize that doing for others results in rewards for the doer as well as the recipient. This “pay it forward” philosophy was promoted by Oprah Winfrey a couple of years ago when she gave audience members $1000 and a video camera with instructions to record how they helped make someone else’s life better.

Most of us don’t have $1000 to spare this season, but we do have neighbors or community members in need. We all know of people whose lives are affected because of circumstance, and giving to assist those in need is a holiday tradition.

On the other hand, many of us don’t even know our neighbors, so let’s start by making an effort to meet those who live nearby. If there is someone in need, talk to your more fortunate neighbors and see if you can come up with a way to assist.

You might not be able to afford to pay their utility bill, but you might be able to install weather stripping or insulate their pipes to reduce their utility costs. Or paint their porch, or rake their yard.

Most importantly, don’t confine this type of giving to the holiday season. Neighborly assistance can be a year round project. It will improve lives as well as neighborhoods.

It might even make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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