Growing up in a Catholic household, giving to charity was a major part of our lives. We not only tithed at church every week (we kids fought over who got to put the envelope in each week) and donated items to St. Vincent de Paul and Goodwill, but we also volunteered our time and skills to various causes. This is known amongst Catholic communities as the Three T's: your Time, your Treasure, and your Talent. These three items make up the concept of Stewardship. We've always been good about donating items and money to charities and lending a hand to friends lately, but now that we're parents, the plight of children has recently lodged itself in our hearts. Giving of our time and talent was so important to both Michael and I in our youth but as we've gotten older and gotten bogged down by jobs, parenthood, and life in general, we've haven't been able to give of our time as much we would like.
We finished watching Long Way Round a couple of days ago, which if you're not familiar with it, it's a documentary featuring Ewan MacGregor and his best mate Charlie Boorman on a motorcycle journey to circle the Northern hemisphere. One of the things they did while on this life changing journey was to get involved with UNICEF and the things they saw just tore our hearts out. I'll admit, I have not always been as charitable to the plights of other countries as I felt it was our duty to take care of those in America first, but seeing these segments made me realize that love and charity should know no boundaries.
As I watch my daughter grow and play daily, I am reminded that she is incredibly lucky to have such a loving family and to have the basics that many children in other parts of the world lack. Ewan and Charlie met children in Mongolia who live in the heating systems underground, abandoned or lost from their families, and the only thing that keeps them fed and clothed are charities like UNICEF. We've all seen pictures of kids who live in Africa who are nothing but skin and bones due to malnourishment and the effects of AIDS. And having relatives who have adopted and have been foster parents, my heart breaks to think of all of the children who are unwanted and unloved in this world or the children who die from starvation and neglect. If it's terrible that these things should happen to an adult, it should be a crime that it happens to children.
Michael and I have been talking recently about getting more involved in charity organizations like UNICEF and adopting or fostering kids when our financial situation is better and we're a bit older. But after reading this blog entry tonight, I feel that maybe we should start here in our hometown and offer our support to the many charities in Austin. After our best friends endured the nightmare of having their youngest in the hospital for two weeks with no clue as to why he was experiencing the ills he endured, I feel like doing something for an organization like Ronald McDonald House. I may not have a lot of extra time or a lot of extra cash, but I can definitely pick up a few choice items to be donated to the RMH for those families that are staying there and trying to live as best they can with the grief and uncertainty they go through.
While I will never tell someone they need to donate their time or money to a specific cause, I will urge you all to think about how we can give back to our communities and encourage the spirit of love and humanity in a time when we seem to be bereft of it. Regardless of party, religion, race, sexual orientation, creed, etc we are all human and we all share this one earth. I have not yet come across a religion or school of thought that doesn't tout the benefits of helping each other (and I hope I never do). When the world seems to crash down around our ears, giving back and reaching out a hand, even if reluctantly, can be immensely healing and the effects are astounding. Even if all you do is smile at a complete stranger, I urge you to stop and think about how you can give back and in a sense, pay it forward. Corny as it sounds, we can only change our world for the better if we're willing to get out there and do something. So start small, or start big, and feel the joy in giving and helping!