Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nineteen Dollars and Ninety-two Cents

          The other day, I disinterred my set of colored pencils from my art-school days, preparatory to illustrating a story about chickens soon to grace this blog, and I noticed the price sticker on the box.

Once so expensive

           Not quite $20 for a box of 24 colored pencils (the college bookstore had good prices for students), a price I wouldn't even think twice about paying today—in fact, a price I would find quite reasonable today, but I still remember how I agonized over it at the time. 
          We often had no more than $20 left over at the end of the month—more often, we had less. Twenty dollars for school supplies was extravagant in the extreme. Every time I used those pencils, I thought about how very expensive they were, about how irresponsible it was to be spending $20 on something besides groceries, utilities, or the mortgage. 
          The box of pencils sitting on my drawing table was a mute attestation to our lean years, to how hard we worked, to how we stretched our money, to how much we worried about it, to how sometimes it didn't stretch far enough. The fear of Not Making It that lived with me in those years washed over me again as I stared at the now perfectly affordable sum on that price tag.
          That we no longer have those struggles and worries gives me reason to be deeply thankful. However, we are living in lean times, and many of our compatriots are not as fortunate as K and I. 
           This isn't news to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the past three years, and here in Kansas City I've noticed an increase in the desire of those of us who can, to give charitably. 
           K and I make our donations to charity, but we also try to practice a community sort of charity, by spending our money in our community, with local businesses who spend their money in this community, instead of sending profits off to regional or national headquarters elsewhere.Working folks, struggling to support their families, deserve our support. Locally-owned businesses, which support the community in their turn, deserve our dollars.
          When you think about charitable giving this year, please consider that it's also charitable to give employment—to a handyman to finish some of the projects languishing on your to-do list; to the fireman who cleans gutters on his days off; to a painter to brighten up that room you've been meaning to get to; to the local hardware store or bookstore or shoe store. 
          When K and I were struggling, the only thing we asked for was a job; we took it from there. If you can, give that opportunity to someone else in this season of thanksgiving.

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