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City Life

It's season of giving, and there are plenty who need it

Published December 17, 2005

The day after Thanksgiving, when I went to the supermarket, I had somehow forgotten that other than being the day to eat turkey sandwiches, it was also the first day of the Season of Giving.

I passed right by the Salvation Army bell ringer standing at the store's entrance, thinking there were about 30 more giving days until Christmas, and the bell ringers would be out there every day getting carpal tunnel in their bell-ringing wrists.

Just inside the store, Toys for Tots was making its appeal. And before I even got my cart, I saw the shelves of Holiday Gift Bags, brown grocery bags already filled with food for a needy family. I could buy one for $16.87.

At the checkout counter, a clerk gave me the option of picking up Food For All tickets in $1, $3 and $5 denominations, which could be conveniently added to my bill.

I confess I didn't give a penny.

I already had a jump start on the season of giving. The day before Thanksgiving, I went to Williams-Sonoma to buy an emergency espresso pot because someone in my household had thrown out the filter to our espresso machine. At the checkout, I was asked if I wanted to contribute $1 to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

What could I say? I was spending $30 to make espresso until my husband and I figure out where to get a replacement filter. (It's not so easy, trust me.) How could I say "no" to spending one-thirtieth of that amount to fight children's cancer?

I couldn't. I didn't even mind being asked.

But that was the first time.

How many times this season have you been asked to contribute money to those less fortunate?

And how many times have you said "no"?

'Tis the season to feel guilty.

I do every time I say "No, thank you."

I know all these organizations are worthy. I know they need money. There are a lot of poor people in this country, although I would prefer to raise the minimum wage to a figure a person can live on.

This is no excuse for being a Scrooge when you pass that red bucket. But it seems to me you have to pick your shots. What is more important to you? Metropolitan Ministries? Habitat for Humanity? There are a million places to give your money. All year round.

And this has been one heck of a year.

I've read that charitable organizations right here in Tampa Bay are feeling the crunch, because people are tapped out from giving to victims of Katrina and the earthquake.

I thought my heart was sufficiently hardened until I walked through Old Hyde Park Village and passed a storefront displaying the Children's Home's photos of kids who need homes. Homes! Not toys, homes! The photographs are wonderful, the opposite of generic, and they really show each child's idiosyncratic personality. And each child has written a short bio, too.

The effect is heart-rending. I wanted to adopt them all. I actually stopped to calculate how old I would be when one graduated from college. And if my husband really needed that second bedroom for an office.

If you're younger or more energetic or just a better person than me, go over and look. The photos are just inside the little retail alley where Blackhawk Coffee Cafe used to be. Or go to the Children's Home Web site,, and also hear their voices.

The project is called the Heart Gallery.

Sandra Thompson, a Tampa writer, can be reached at City Life appears on Saturday.

[Last modified December 17, 2005, 01:00:13]

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