“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
― Maya Angelou
All last month, I pondered the question, “How best to help during this holiday season?” Then it occurred to me: I would stage an event for Youth Shelters, an organization that makes a big difference here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Last year they provided food, clothing, and warm beds for 1,087 homeless teenagers. Through their Street Outreach program, they kept young people from having to camp, sleep in drainage culverts or nearly freezing to death.
I would donate the profits from book sales. Op Cit Bookstore agreed to provide the venue. Along with a not-for-profit book signing, I would solicit money gifts for Youth Shelters. Throughout November, the plan unfolded. Local businesses and friends donated door prizes, Sam’s Club gave refreshments, and I was fortunate enough to have radio and newspaper coverage. I’d read excerpts from The Goodbye Baby and From Calcutta with Love, two books focussed respectively on how adoption affected me and on my adoptive parents. To top off the afternoon, a representative from Youth Shelters would tell the audience about his nonprofit’s work.
It was a way to reach out, to make a difference. Until my adoptive parents found me at age five, I was what you might call “semi-homeless.” In so many ways, I was fortunate. I might have had self-doubts and fears that I’d let my adoptive parents down by not being the “real” daughter. However, after my new life began, not once did I lack for shelter, food, clothing and nurturing.
The stage was set, and all should go smoothly. Right? Wrong! On the Sunday afternoon of my event, a fierce snow storm and sub-freezing temperatures made it the kind of day no one wanted to venture outdoors. All over town, events were cancelled. The book store almost didn’t open. My phone rang off the hook. Friends called me to ask,“Is the book signing still happening?” Some of the helpers I’d recruited couldn’t budge out of their driveways, and I had to find others to replace them.
Long story short. Not only did the reading happen, it was a big success. My friend Claudette Sutton, editor of Tumbleweeds Family Newspaper, and I narrated book excerpts. Writer/editor friend Dorothy Winkler orchestrated the door prizes.Dan Bailey of Youth Shelters spoke eloquently to an attentive audience. Hundreds of dollars were raised. A dozen copies of my books sold and Op Cit took leftover books on consignment. Youth Shelters garnered extra donations and much-needed recognition. Despite the early winter weather, I’d accomplished my goal of “paying it forward.”
Giving, I learned, is a gift you can give yourself.