EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Charity is what you make of it
I am not really much of a joiner, but I have joined a few clubs and groups over the years, some of which have charitable aspirations.
So I found myself thinking about charity, and what it’s all about.
My first real experience with “charity” was when I joined the Students for Environmental Awareness during my years at the University of Mississippi. It wasn’t quite a ‘charity,’ but it was a group full of well-intentioned folks trying to do some good, and even if I joined mostly for the company and the beer, it sparked a desire to join other groups in the future.
Right now, I’m a member of Truckee’s Sunrise Rotary, which meets at the bone-achingly early hour of 7 in the a.m. every Tuesday at Andy’s Diner. It’s a good group to be a part of -we get to eat bacon and eggs. They also do cool stuff like the Angel Network, which picks up and distributes unwanted furniture to those who need it.
A few years ago, I was on the board of directors for the domestic violence agency in Oxford, Mississippi.
I felt a little odd being on something so lofty-sounding as a board of directors – shouldn’t I have a pension and a BMW to be on such a thing? – but I was glad to do what little I could to advance domestic violence prevention in rural Mississippi, a place where, too often, a man “givin’ a woman the back of his hand” is still considered perfectly acceptable.
Back in college, I also did a little hard time with Habitat for Humanity, the organization that helps build houses for the needy in depressed areas.
On one such trek, we went to a place called Jamestown, Mississippi, population about 300. It remains the single poorest town I’ve ever seen in my life. Some houses there were held together with duct tape, while others seemed to stand by sheer force of will.
Habitat for Humanity was working down there to build a few new homes for the locals, so I joined in.
I was assigned to work on one of the new houses they were building, doing manly things like laying tile and hammering sheetrock.
I felt quite productive, until, somehow, I managed to get a nail stuck into my own head, in a feat of immense clumsiness I feel few on this planet will ever equal.
What happened was that I was in the small crawlspace underneath a house putting insulation in, when I suddenly saw a very, very large rat about 2 inches away from my eyeballs. My instinctive reaction was to sit up, very quickly, which resulted in me banging my head into the underside of the house’s floor, and into a nail that happened to be protruding from that floor.
Fortunately the nail only went into my head about an eighth of an inch, causing a small gouge that bled a heck of a lot but caused no lasting damage to my brain that I’m aware of.
But I bled for charity, and I felt quite noble and didn’t scream like a little girl all that much.
And we built a spiffy new house in Jamestown. It didn’t exactly solve the world’s problems, but it helped a little.
I suppose that’s the main aim of charity, when you get down to it -you do what you can, when you can.
Those who give with their checkbooks do, those who give with their sweat and time do.
It isn’t something you should have to do – I have always hated those who browbeat and guilt-trip people into doing what should come naturally – but it is something you should want to do, at least a little bit of the time.
However, I heartily advise anyone against crawling underneath a house to put insulation up unless you’re wearing a helmet.
Sierra Sun Editor Nik Dirga grew up in Nevada County.
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