Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: charitable giving

A person lights their candle from one held by their companion, while a circle of others with candles look on.

A season of small bright spots

We’re back at the nadir of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), and looking for a few small bright spots.

This year, especially, those can be hard to find. Relative lacks of urgency from certain Senators notwithstanding, this winter will be a very deep nadir indeed.

People are out of work. People are hungry. They can’t pay their rent, and a national moratorium on evictions ends soon. Death tolls from Covid-19 have surged higher than a 9/11 every day.

Spiky white coronaviruses like snowflakes dot the sky of a snowy landscape in this uncredited illustration.
(Uncredited illustration/Medpage Today)

Political division and controversy haven’t taken a break, either. The Supreme Court only recently turned down an appeal–backed by 17 state attorneys-general and 106 Republican members of Congress–that sought to overturn a legally-conducted election and disenfranchise millions of US voters. Anti-maskers and a rising chorus of vaccine-resisters threaten to prolong the pandemic yet more.

And yet there are small bright spots

Amidst all the gloom and dire predictions, few could blame a person for feeling daunted. But small bright spots do pop up.

There’s the stray puppy who took a nap in a nativity scene, caused an online sensation when someone photographed her, and who in the end found a forever home.

The Black family in North Little Rock, Arkansas who received a racist note after they placed a Black Santa Claus in their outdoor Christmas display–but whose mostly-White neighbors, once they learned about this, put Black Santas in their yards, too, in solidarity.

Chris Kennedy’s yard sports a string of white lights, a large, multicolored sign that proclaims “JOY,” a Christmas tree, and an inflatable Black Santa Claus in the middle.
(Photo by Chris Kennedy, via the Washington Post.)

The “world’s loneliest elephant” finds a new home and a small herd (parade?) of elephant friends, thanks to a court order, international cooperation, a pop star, and a well-prepared animal rescue operation.

Hope in a time of darkness is what humans do

Love does (sometimes) still triumph. Kindness (sometimes) shines through, and we humans do (sometimes) rise to the moment to share good works, generous acts, and gentle treatment. After all, ‘Tis the season.

Last year I published a post about the many holidays that happen at this time of year. It’s no accident that they do, since they all originated in the Northern Hemisphere.

The candles of Christian Advent, the miraculous oil lamp and steadily-brightening menorah of Hanukkah, and the bonfires of Winter Solstice and Yule all bring small bright spots to life in the vast darkness of the year’s darkest days.

The illustrated quote from the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu says, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
(Design by Rocio Chavez, Your Sassy Self)

We say “where there’s life there’s hope,” and that certainly seems to hold true for healthy humans. We may say “bah, humbug!” We may indeed be pessimists as individuals (Yes, the world needs pessimists, too! They often make better leaders, more realistic managers, and outstanding comedians). But humankind evolved to band together and help each other. Cooperation is our species’ best tool for survival.

Passing the light

In many Christian candlelight services we celebrate “passing the light.” We’ve stood or sat or knelt, sang, prayed, and listened throughout the service. All while holding an unlit candle.

At the end of the service, all or most of the artificial lights go off. Then the ushers come down the aisle(s) to light the candle at the end of each row. The person next to the end lights their candle from the end candle. Then the person next to them takes the light. Then the next, then the next, until everyone’s candle burns bright, and the sanctuary is filled with their collective light.

A person lights their candle from one held by their companion, while a circle of others with candles look on.
(Photo from Hotty Toddy, via Tien Skye’s inspirational post on Medium.)

Having participated in many such services, I can tell you it’s a powerful effect. I know other religious traditions and secular groups observe similar rituals. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. My point here is not to preach the Gospel, so much as suggest we can use this as a helpful metaphor.

Creating small bright spots

How can we, as individuals or “covid bubbles,” create small bright spots for others? You may feel as if you’ve been in solitary confinement since March (and yes, you kind of have been), but it’s still possible to reach out virtually, even while reaching out physically is still dangerous.

Any day is a good day for charitable giving or volunteering. You don’t have to wait for a designated “Day of Giving” to donate, if you’re able. Shelters for victims of domestic violence and food banks everywhere are experiencing record need. And there are many creative ways to volunteer while socially distancing. Seek out a local charitable organization, and ask how you can help.

Offer a lifeline to a small, locally-owned business. Weird Sisters Publishing officially endorses buying physical books through local independent booksellers whenever possible. Pick them up curbside (this usually saves on shipping, too!). Find one near you through Bookshop (if you don’t already have yours on speed-dial).

Order carryout or delivery from your favorite local restaurants as often as you can afford to. Local toy stores, game shops, gift shops, and small but wonderful boutique designers all probably sell gift certificates if you’re not sure about sizes, colors, or tastes. And all are desperate for customers right now.

The design says, “When you support handmade you are not just supporting a person, small business, our economy; You are purchasing a small part of an artist’s heart.”
(Design by Menchua, of Moms & Crafters.)

Small bright spots for freelancers

Become a Patreon sponsor for someone whose music, videos, artwork, podcasts, or other creative work has warmed your soul and kept you company over the long months of lockdown. Don’t forget Etsy for small creative businesses, either.

Find wonderful handmade goods through a group such as the Convention Artists Guild (out of the Denver area) on Facebook. They hold regular Virtual Art Shows, where you can buy all sorts of cool stuff. My sister’s posts of this week and two weeks ago on The Weird Blog feature some of her favorite local Texas artisans’ work. But wherever you live, local artists are doing amazing work. Seek them out!

Here’s a list of seven great ways to support small artists, from a guest post on this blog by the musician Losing Lara, that originally ran in 2018. Although we can’t go to live concerts right now, many musicians and other performers are using platforms such as Twitch, You Tube, and various others to stream their events.

However you choose to do it, I hope you find that the more you share small bright spots in the darkness, the brighter and warmer and more joyous your own life becomes.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to Medpage Today, for the “Covid-19 Winter” illustration. I really appreciate Chris Kennedy and The Washington Post for the photo of the Kennedys’ holiday yard display. I love the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu “hope” quote, as realized by the designer Rocio Chavez (check out her blog and her Facebook page, for some real mood-elevators!). Find some more heartwarming content on Tien Skye’s inspirational Medium post, as well as the candlelight photo, which came from Hotty Toddy. Thank you both! Finally, many thanks to Menchua, of Moms & Crafters, for her “Handmade is Special” design. I think it’s pretty special, too, which is why I posted it once before on this blog, back in 2018.

It’s not over!

And just like that, Christmas is over and done with. Except for the digging out . . . and except that for some of us, it’s NOT over.

It’s not over: Happy Kwanzaa!

If you celebrate Kwanzaa, of course, the holiday has only just begun! Today is the day to especially celebrate Umoja, or Unity–something we all could use a good deal more of, in my home country of the United States.

Kwanzaa goes on for another six days after this, and doesn’t end till New Year’s Day. Each day, celebrants are asked to think about a particular value that has stood the African-American community in good stead over the years.

Today’s value is “Unity,” or Umoja. “To maintain unity in family, community, nation, and culture” is an urgent issue in the United States today that transcends any single group. Everyone in the USA can learn from the strong, resilient heart of the Black community. Will we? Only time can answer that.

At the basis of unity is shared respect and–yes–love.

Nope: it’s not over even yet: It’s also Boxing Day!

And, no — it’s not over even yet. Don’t forget today is ALSO Boxing Day in much of the English-speaking world! This year, more than ever, it might be a great moment to consider a large, charitable donation.

IMAGES

Many thanks to Brian Gordon and his Fowl Language cartoons, for today’s grin, to Jeffrey St. Clair via LinkedIn and SlideShare for the beautiful Umoja Unity design, and to the Tumblr of Adam Hernandez AKA “Slim Baby!” (via Pinterest), with thanks to TinEye Reverse Image Search, for the Cornel West quote and image.

How can we be both generous and wise?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

Today is not only Kwanzaa, but also Boxing Day in much of the English-speaking world. No, contrary to some of the stories I’ve heard, Boxing Day isn’t called that because we bundle all our unwanted gifts back into their boxes and return them to the stores that day.

The name of the holiday comes from the alms boxes or the poor boxes that churches have put out over the centuries, to collect aid for the poor. In other words, the holiday seeks to honor and promote the tradition of charitable giving during the holidays.

Maybe you have some newly-received “Christmas money” fattening your pocketbook and would like to share some of it, or maybe you are seeking a nice tax deduction before the end of the year. Maybe you simply have the altruistic generosity of love for others overflowing in your heart (wouldn’t that be lovely?).

Whatever your motivation, today is a traditional day for charitable giving. If that’s your aim, then God bless you!

If you are in the habit of giving, you probably have your list of favorites already. Mine include our local animal shelter, the Great Plains SPCA, my church, Harvesters, The Nature Conservancy, the ASPCA, the Southern Poverty Law Center, K9s4Cops, and WikipediaI’d give more to the many deserving others in operation, but as I noted last week, all of us mortals are finite beings with finite resources. If I may disagree slightly with Anne Frank above, it is possible to impoverish yourself from giving, although the intrinsic benefits are many.

I hope you have your own list! But wherever you give, may I also suggest that you run it past The Charity Navigator (another excellent candidate for receiving donations, by the way), for a dose of clarity and realism before you invest too deeply? Unfortunately, wherever generous people seek to help others with their gifts, there also are unscrupulous people who seek only to enrich themselves in the name of “charity.” The Charity Navigator helps us to be both generous and wise

Happy Boxing Day!

IMAGES: Many thanks to Inspired by Familia, by Mari Hernandez-Tuten, for the Anne Frank quote image. Her article includes some perceptive insights you also might find interesting. Many thanks to Period Oak Antiques for the photo of an alms box from about 1450; there are more views of it on the website. We now have more efficient ways to give, though no less need. The Charity Navigator logo is from the organization’s website.

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