Sunday, January 08, 2012

Giving Back

I spend an awful lot of time thinking about what I don't have. Like most Americans, I want more. I regret choices I made in the past. Had I made them differently, I would have had things in my life that I don't have now. I complain about the economy and the lack of good job opportunities. I, along with everyone else, look at what's happened to my retirement savings over the years and want to cry.

When I get into those moods, I have to remind myself of how much I do have. I may not have a job I love, but I was unemployed only two weeks after I got laid off from my last one. Others have been out of work for months or years. I'm not homeless. I have a house that's safe and warm. The only time I go to bed hungry is when I'm trying to lose weight.

I have a loving son who is successful in his own right, never got into trouble with the law, and married the most wonderful woman a mother could wish for. Even though I'm basically a loner, I have friends who I can call on when I need help.

I belong to a church that believes in Missions and Service. We run a food pantry that not only gives out boxes of food from the Community Food Bank, but supplements that with bags of food donated by the congregation. The church also has a medical loan chest for items of equipment that people may not be able to afford to buy.

Another program that the church takes part in is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. This is a government-sponsored program administered by AARP that helps low-to-moderate income people file their tax returns at no charge. Tax returns are intimidating to a lot of people. It doesn't help that the law changes every year. The poor and elderly are often overwhelmed by the verbiage and calculations required to fill out the forms. They are often unaware of tax credits that they are entitled to take and can wind up paying more than their fair share of taxes because of this.

Tomorrow I start a week long training program to be one of those volunteers. It means using up vacation days from work to participate, but another benefit I have is plenty of vacation time.

Last year I didn't volunteer for the VITA program. I told myself I didn't have time. My life was already too full. Not only do I have a full time job, I'm trying to write a publishable novel, I have a house and yard to take care of, there were errands to run, books to read, meetings to go to. In particular, tax time overlaps with the best time of year for working outdoors in Tucson. By the time April 15th rolls around, it's already getting too warm to spend much time doing yardwork during the day. I told myself that I needed more time for myself to keep up with things.

You know what? That yardwork didn't get done anyway. Part of it was the weather. Last February was ridiculous. We had two days where it didn't get above freezing during the day and went down to eighteen degrees overnight. All that pruning that we usually do in February couldn't be done. Part of it was choices I made. I don't remember what I did instead, but it certainly wasn't weeding and gardening.

I'm pretty good about writing checks to charity, but I don't think that's the same as giving of yourself. As giving of your time. I don't think I have the ability to do a lot of the tasks that volunteers do. But I can do this. I know my way around a computer and I can understand the rules for filling out tax returns. It's not very much in the grand scheme of things. I know people who do so much more. But at least I can make a little bit of difference in this world that needs so many things to be done.
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