History: Years ago, someone suggested a gift for Badgermaniac, who - like Southfew - ran a message board out of the kindness of his heart. Maniac suggested a charity instead and the Holiday Fund was born. Joe Hill, or one of his previous or future incarnations, contacts the Nice Unitarian Lady (NUL), who gives us names of families. Message board participants send non-deductible funds to someone they don't know, who collects the money, gets posters/kids/friends to buy gifts (teenaged or 20-something girls are very helpful here) with the funds, a larger group of posters/kids/friends gathers at Pooleys to wrap them, and Badger76 or Joe deliver to NUL. We buy toys, clothes, electronics, etc. and everyone gets a Badger-something.
One year a poster asked, respectfully, why we were giving someone with a lot of basic needs a frivolous gift. Here is Joe Hill's (Petronius back then) response.
Re: Holiday Fund: We have our families.
Not to sound like a prick, but isnt Family 90 being a bit odd in their requests? Jewelry? Game Cube?
I see your point, and I don't think you're a prick for raising it at all. Jewelry and a Game Cube aren't must-haves, and they certainly could manage without them. I'll even add on a little -- all these families are receiving public assistance in some form, so they're at least getting enough in the way of food stamps to eat and pay the rent. Why buy luxuries for strangers?
I don't know these families, and I don't know what's happened to bring them to this point. This program isn't about basic survival needs, although in the case of the one family that asked for winter coats, it's not far away.
It's about compassion, a good Buddhist virtue. Like Azree said, it's not out of line to want to get something nice for Christmas. If I had to guess, I'd say that the kids in these families have had year after year with not much getting. And, in addition to the economic, health, and God-knows-what-else problems the parents have had, they get the bonus extra-special pleasure of having nothing to give their kids for Christmas.
I don't know whether it would be worse for me to see my kids crushed on Christmas because I couldn't give them anything, or to see them not crushed because they knew damn well I couldn't give them anything this year because I couldn't last year, or the year before that.
Kids aren't stupid, especially poor kids. I was a poor kid, once. Poor kids know that hope is stupid, especially when what you're hoping for has a price tag on it.
We're in the hope business here, and the joy business too. For once in their lives, these folks are going to get something they want, not something they need. You should have seen the pile of stuff we had last year, BMac. You should have seen it.
It was f---in' HUGE. Yeah, it was clothes and coats and boots and stuff, but it was also stuff that anybody would be happy to see under the tree on Christmas morning. Toy trucks and footballs and t-shirts with dinosaurs on them for little boys. Silly socks and stuffed animals and big dolls with millions of tiny accessories for little girls. Make-up kits, stylish clothes, and tacky department store jewelry for teenage girls. Video games and boom boxes and stupid teenage music for teenage boys. A TV for dad.
A decent digital camera for mom, so she can remember what her babies looked like when she's older and tireder and they're taking care of her instead of the other way around.
We don't get to see what happens Christmas morning. We don't get to see the kids ripping all this crap open and running around the house with it. We don't get to see everyone wearing their Badger t-shirts around (everyone gets one). We don't get to see a family of 13 that lives on food stamps gorge themselves into immobility on an honest-to-Buddha Christmas dinner that they bought from Woodman's with the $175 gift card we gave them. We don't get to see them pretend to be normal, non-poor people for a day.
We don't get to see Mom and Dad watching their kids be happy on Christmas day for once. And we don't get to see the kids, years later, still talking about Christmas 2004 when a bunch of complete strangers made the sky rain presents, and what the hell was that all about, anyway?
You're not a prick, BMac. You raise a good point. If we don't do this, nobody will starve or freeze to death. Hope dies if we don't, though, and faith, and other stuff that people need. This is from one of my favorite authors:
"You're saying people need fantasy to make life
Really? As if it was some kind of pink pill? No. Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
The Tooth Fairy? Santa Claus?
Yes. As practice. You have to start out learning to believe the little lies.
So we can believe the big ones?
Yes. Justice. Mercy. Duty. That sort of thing.
They're not the same at all.
You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and the show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet you act as if there is some ideal order in the world, as if there is some ... some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.
Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point--
My point exactly.
It's good public policy. It makes little kids happy. It makes their parents happy. It makes the people who give their money and time happy. Most importantly, it makes me happy.
I am sorry to be so wordy. We got back from Mrs. P's holiday party not long ago, and I am tore-down drunk. Sometimes I hit people when I get drunk; tonight you get sentimental. You asked a good question, BMac. I hope I gave a good answer.
And, because I am a literary snob, I will give a shiny new quarter to the first person who can identify the source of the quoted material above. I have taken a little liberty with the text, and the italicized material really should be in caps/small caps instead,. which is a hint.
Christ am I drunk. I hope the People don't have any serious problems tomorrow. If they must call, I hope they speak slowly and very, very quietly and do not expect anything to happen until Monday. Good night, y'all, and may whatever god, philosophical principle, or process you believe in light your path and ease your burdens.
Edited by: Petronius at: 12/2/05 12:30:04 am