Giving makes up for indifference of the powerful

By Ruth Ferris In many Christian traditions, Easter follows a time of lent, weeks of spiritual reflection and sometimes austerity. The Jewish tradition celebrates Passover, a time of remembering being freed from slave holders and remembering being passed over by the angel of death. Both seasons end with renewed joyfulness and celebration. My week after Easter was filled with a series of events that, as unrelated as they seem at first sight, add up to what together make a powerful statement about the choices before us as we move forward as individuals, members of the Eatonville community, and citizens of the world. Here they are: April cuts in food stamps for over a million people in the United States; Cub Scouts helping deliver food to the Eatonville Community Center; watching a Steve Jobs documentary; a notice from the Eatonville Family Agency that the shelves in the food bank were low; getting an email from my granddaughter saying that a part of Easter that would always stay with her was our family's tradition of giving each grandchild funds to send to a charity of her choice. Years ago, I went to a lecture about the importance of introducing charitable giving to children. This lecture was given not by a church or a philanthropic organization but by a prestigious financial investment company. The speaker's topic was based not on sentiment, but on statistics about ways families viewed and managed their assets and the long-term financial impact of that. They found that when families with resources brought up their children to view them as something to be managed as responsible citizens, and when those families worked together to help the children find charities that were doing things that the children found meaningful, that it influenced their lifetime view of money as something to be managed responsibly. The long term effect was that those families were significantly statistically more likely to manage their assets wisely over time. I figured that this principle could work for any family, and so we started an Easter tradition of each of my four grandchildren having to do some serious thinking and research to make a good choice of a charity. The sum was not large, but we worked seriously to make our contributions meaningful ones. It was an unexpected surprise to hear that my granddaughter, who is now away at college, still remembers the pleasure of being generous and that it still is firmly connected to her celebration of Easter. I loved the recent pictures of the Cub Scouts delivering food to the Community Center that our director Alana Smith posted on Facebook. Kudos to those adults that helped make that happen and to their neighbors and friends who gave food for them to bring to the Community Center. Their Scout leader and their parents were giving them the opportunity of doing something meaningful for their community. Their help really mattered. We have all seen the increasing importance of the food bank in Eatonville. Along with the news that our shelves needed replenishing, EFA board members received a link from board member Bob Akervick to a web site which gave details about the latest cuts in food stamps. As of the first of April, a million people nationally were being cut off from access to food stamps. While the legislation made it sound as if food was being cut from people who could be working if they chose to, those of us who see the people who turn up needing food, know that "getting a jobGÇ¥ is not something that many of them can do easily. A prominent politician recently apologized for calling the poor the "takers,GÇ¥ and recent news articles have given the real story about those who need food assistance. Modern life is precarious, and over fifty percent of us will need assistance of some kind over our lifetimes. I reflected on that news last Tuesday at my church's Fatted Calf Caf+¬, the festive dinner that my church creates once a month for the needy. I knew that many of the men who were at my table had mental health issues that keep them from being able to get a job. Many of them have not recovered from experiences of war, either being in war zones themselves or having lost people important to them in one of the many conflicts from WWII to the present. The thought of them being denied food and having to go hungry felt shameful and sad. Into this mix of Easter images is the documentary of Steve Jobs that a friend invited me to see. Apple has transformed this country and the world, and computers are essential in the running of everything from our largest corporations to our personal music selections, to our committees, to our social lives. I am rarely parted from my iPhone, as is the case with people around the globe. What I found stunning was that in spite of its enormous wealth, Jobs made a choice several years ago that his company would support no charities. Not only that, it has most of its wealth invested off-shore. My mix of experiences ends with those of us with "boots on the groundGÇ¥ in Eatonville. Those of us in the Eatonville Family Agency are seeing growing numbers of those who are hungry and who are suffering. At the same time, we are seeing the poor and the hungry becoming invisible to many of those who looking at corporate or government budget numbers. Teaching our children, our students, our church school classes, our Scout troops seems so little, but it's not. To make up for the indifference by many of the powerful, we can inspire our children, and each other, that it is important to give what we can.
Ruth Ferris is a member of Eatonville Family Agency's board.


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