This is a simple column by a complex woman.  
Dumb-asses need not apply.
If you flatter yourself to be a bright spot in the universe
and aren't offended by "psychotic breaks," welcome.
If you're a little frightened, well, all the better.
We kinda like you like that... with hot sauce.


Every time Thanksgiving comes around the bend – saw the first tinsel lights in September! – I start thinking of the poor and the homeless.

Then, I start thinking of my meager bank account, and I forget about it.

But the issue still bugs me until New Year’s rings in an entirely brainwashed, reprogrammed mental attitude. Maybe next Thanksgiving.

As a child, I used to leave gifts at strangers’ doorsteps. Easter eggs, a turkey leg, a box of chocolates, my Barbie doll’s right leg, once I took my plate of fixings and gave it to some guy trudging through the snow down our street (he gave it back).

I’d always give money to beggars. Most often, I’d only have a $20 or $50 bill in my wallet, but it didn’t matter, I gave. I felt I had to. Just the thought of them wandering around aimlessly in the cold, their stomachs growling, smelling bad, treated worse, filled me with guilt, as if I caused their homelessness.

In the 1970s, I began obsessively watching charity telethons on TV. Blame Jerry Lewis. I bought into his whole, “If we raise enough money this year, together we’ll beat muscular dystrophy,” as in, we’ll zero in on a cure and nobody will have MS ever again.

My father never bought any of it, no matter how much I begged him to phone in our donation. After a particularly heart-felt TV show focusing on the plight of the starving children in Africa (yes, folks, it’s not just a nagging reminder from your parents to eat your vegetables), I went to him, proverbial hat in hand.

“Carol,” he sighed, “do you know what happens to the money that organization receives?”

I shook my head, not liking the sound of this.

“They don’t get a red cent of it. The corrupt leadership in Africa steals all the donated money and those poor kids stay poor, they never get any of the food that money could buy. You’re wasting your time.”

After that particular one-sided conversation, I stopped begging. Eventually, after running into one too many professional panhandlers, I stopped giving.

But the spirit of giving sticks in the back of my guilt trips every time talk turns to visiting relatives and turkey with all the trimmings. I see snot-nosed children crying into the skeletal bosoms of their mothers seated forlornly in an alley, covered in cardboard boxes, ignored by the sum of society and put in a Catch-22 situation where circumstances refused to allow them a chance to get out of their homelessness.

I read articles now and again of these very people who wound up on the streets, people like you and me, with jobs, homes, cars, material possessions ... that went up in smoke at the first pink slip, overextension of credit, health problems, caregiving responsibilities, shit happening and suddenly, they’re walking a mile in the very shoes of the homeless they ignored or told to “Get a job!”

Throw the church into it, and I’m really hurting for a fix. Combing the websites for a suitable donation to anonymously gift, the phone book for organizations to donate my time and my stuff—I’ve got an attic worth of baby clothes and blankets—something, anything where my momentary Middle Class luxuries can do a Lower Class better good.

Sometimes, I just want to stand on a street corner with boxes full of everything I own and the full amount of my bank accounts, and just let the poor section of town have it.

Take it. Take it all.

They probably wouldn’t. They would probably have to be very hard up to even touch anything I touched. I’m always amazed when someone we know doesn’t mind going into our house, much less just hanging out inside. We invite them to make themselves at home, help themselves to food in the fridge and the pantry, and when they do, I can’t believe it. A couple of babysitters have taken us up on our offer and fixed themselves some soup for dinner on occasion. I come home, see the dishes, the empty soup can, and am overwhelmed with gratitude.

“I don’t have cooties! Whoo hoo!”

I’d elaborate on this thread, except I need to head to Costco’s to buy a friend’s sister a case of Pepsi (in return for drinking several cans of hers at several meetings for several weeks) and I’m hoping to god she’ll accept it, maybe I can lie and say it came from Tamara Braun (Carly, GH), someone clean and wholesome and not full of cooties like me. And besides, I’ve been rewriting and rewriting this goddamned column for three hours now, it must be the holiday season upon me, messing with my ability to crank out four pages in 15 minutes.


This year, I’m lucky enough to have signed up to put together a Thanksgiving basket for a needy family, through my Northshore Christian Church affiliation. Knowing me, I’ll go overboard and try to fill the basket (more like discarded computer box) with a week’s supply of food, plus enough money for the year to keep eating well.

If I weren’t so anal about strangers’ germs, the possibility of contracting diseases and lice and the like, I’d have opened up my home to the homeless to live permanently long ago.

Not the wisest move in today’s society, where violence often occurs alongside well-meaning kindness. You try to help and you get slapped with a lawsuit, or worse, an attack of greed.

In ninth grade, I befriended Ann, who often went without meals, as well as parental figures at home. Seeing my opportunity to give, I did, often paying for her groceries, her cab ride home. Eventually, she took advantage, expecting me to pay for groceries and cab fares she charged to me. And when I tired of her manipulating my compassion to keep her fed and put up with her abusive tirades, she snubbed me, acting as if she were the wronged party and I was just another fairweather friend.

Then again, she used her toothbrush to pleasure herself, so...

I’m constantly clashing between childhood idealism tempered by adulthood cynicism. Give, but give wisely.

Does that mean it’s safe to start donating to Jerry’s Kids again?

“God blessed us all with gifts. Or... did He?” 

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