Spirituality for Today – Spring 2020 – Volume 24, Issue 3

How to Avoid the Thanksgiving–Christmas Rush in July

Sister Lou Ella Hickman, IWBS

When I was in elementary school my maternal grandmother died. We lived in a small town in North Texas that had the total population of about six hundred. Rather than the close net community many people believe small towns are, people's lives went on soon after the funeral even thought my family was considered one of the pillars of the community. I believe the one image I somehow remember from the first Thanksgiving meal after my grandmother's death has given me a slightly different approach to helping the poor during the Thanksgiving-Christmas season. That image was a plate of fried quail; a delicacy to be sure. Someone had gone hunting and brought my family the gift of quail for our meal which my mother had cooked. However, that someone left, and we were left alone in our grief.

Since then, I have viewed the flurry of donating to whatever cause at this time with a bit of caution. While I know all agencies depend on this time of year for serving God's poor for the months ahead. But I also know His poor are still poor in July. I know as I have another elementary school story. My younger sister needed corrective shoes and it was during July. The cost: fifty dollars. The same amount of my father's monthly child's support which was added to my mother's teacher's salary. Which wasn't much during the 1950's. So, I spend my energies before Thanksgiving and well after Christmas doing what I can to help fill in the gaps this holy season of giving does not supply.

Did you know that some 25 percent of produce is discarded before it hits the produce shelves? Perhaps a Scout troop or an Eagle Scout looking for a project could contact various food markets to donate imperfect fruit and vegetables and then drop them off at the locations suggested below. Also, confirmand students could do the same or they could sponsor a food drive by contacting those markets. Be sure to contact the agency to find out want is needed.

I have listed these agencies that you might be able to help.

First contact your parish as most sponsor a St. Vincent de Paul society or a pantry. If that program is closed for the summer, check online for the various programs your diocese supports.

The Catholic Worker: these shelters often serve meals to the homeless on a daily or weekly schedule so food such as coffee along with cream and sugar, eggs, bread, juice, biscuit mix and canned gravy all make for a hot meal.

Food Banks house more than just canned or packaged food. Many non-profits such as women shelters and shelters for abused children often rely on foodstuffs such as baby food and formula. Direct donations to these groups can help stretch their July budgets. Two items that often overlooked as a donation—books for both the moms and the children as well as art and crafts supplies.

Some after school/summer groups for young children are often in need of books and art supplies. Mentoring/tutoring these children can help break the cycle of generational poverty.

Check for housing for women with a crisis pregnancy. Diapers, diapers, diapers. Baby wipes, formula, baby food. Dreft detergent (it is the best kind for baby clothes.)

Day shelters for the homeless. Socks, underwear, coffee and creamer, paper goods including toilet paper, blankets, towels and detergent.

Transitional housing for men: Socks, underwear, shaving supplies, toilet paper, towels. Transitional Housing for women: Underwear, detergent, toilet paper, towels.

The last two groups are often housing and ehabilitation support for recovery from addiction. Many of their clients have been homeless so your donations can help people when the weather is hot.

Finally, may I suggest you show some type of appreciation for the staff with a donation for them? Don't forget to pray for those who work with God's poor for Jesus made Himself poor for our sakes.

I discovered a great spiritual insight several years as I watched the movie, Finding Forrester. In one scene Sean Connery's character advises a teen-aged friend on how to win a young girl's heart. Not only did it work for the teen, it it also applies to God's poor. The advice was simple, "Give an unexpected gift at an unexpected time."

While giving at Thanksgiving and Christmas will always be important, it takes a special spiritual person to give at an unexpected time. Like in July.