Gifts to the Stranger

December 1, 2016

Sorry. I didn’t realize “Giving Tuesday” had become an actual thing. Maybe it’s because it’s tacked onto the end of a long weekend—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—of hyped consumerism run amok in different forms that it gets lost. Strangely that seems to be the only way to attract attention to philanthropy; we should always be giving of ourselves. But that’s a rant for a different blog. This one’s about Christmas giving.

A few years ago, I was near rock bottom. I had no money, some part-time work, some unemployment checks, was spending all the rest of my time looking for work, while still being a weekend father, and fending off attacks from my daughter’s mom to make this Christmas bigger and better than the last one as it has to be every year and expects me to pay for it all. At the time, I used to make slide productions of my daughter over the previous year in photographs set to music. But with all that was happening, I had no energy, time, or working equipment to do it. What I did was this: I wrote everyone to say that I had no money for myself much less for gifts to buy and/or mail to everyone, and because I couldn’t give anything I wanted nothing in return. Instead I took a page from my friend Reverend Hank Peirce (who got it from another minister) and asked my friends to please donate some money to their choice of a number of worthy causes (e.g. Doctors Without Borders, ACLU, Oxfam, etc). They could do it in my name or their own, but they should give to help others as more befitting the season. Do something nice instead of scrounging for perfect gifts.

This year I have a better part-time job, am a full time single father, have a decent cushion of funds (barring any serious emergencies) and am less panicked about the holiday. However with the way this year has gone and how events are turning out that are beyond our control, there are many who feel as scared as I was then (if for different reasons). So this year, I’m reaching back to that time to do something good. The gift I will be giving out are donations to charitable organizations—here and abroad—that help make life safer and possible for those who need it. I ask that if you wish to give a gift to me, donate to one of the groups listed below. It can be as little or as much as you want, but give to help others.

I was very proud of Sophia when she asked, quite sincerely, “it it’s Jesus’ birthday, why are we getting gifts?” It showed me that a lot of what I taught her had sunk in. With that in mind, remember that this season is about generosity to others and sharing with those in need. There are a lot of needy people out there, but the people generous spirit outnumber the needy. So give freely and make this a great holiday for you and yours, as well as the stranger whomever they are.

Click the name to go to their website:

ACLU

Standing Rock Sioux/NoDAPL

Southern Poverty Law Center

Planned Parenthood

Doctors Without Borders

Black and Pink

Heifer International

Oxfam

Amnesty International

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I was never good at sales. I’m not very open by nature so the idea of pushing stuff on to people never was appealing—even if it was something people wanted. I’ve had sales jobs every so often over the years out of desperation and necessity, but I hated the task.

Political phone banking is similar, except you really are trying to get the word out about someone you believe in. I did it for Obama in 2008, as well as Democratic fundraising in 2010 (which was harder). But after all the crap I went through from the loss of a career in 2009, the spiraling decline through 2012, and dealing with single fatherhood for the last 3 years—all of which took a tool on my own mental health—I know I am no longer capable of doing any kind of telemarketing or phone banking.

The problem this time around is that the Bernie Sanders campaign needs the outreach of volunteers on the phones to help his run; not just getting the vote out but basic candidate knowledge. There has been a media blackout of his campaign since November 2015 and general dismissal of his candidacy up until now. Despite that he is a popular candidate, has a great platform, and can win if his message is heard. Sanders has been able to garner supporters by letting people hear his platform. So these phone banks become essential for his campaign. Yet I couldn’t do it. I want Sanders to get the nomination and the White House, but I can’t dial a single phone number without a panic attack.

Thankfully a friend pointed out that Sanders has a texting squad. They text get out the vote reminders, rally alerts, phone banking events, and such, to other Bernie supporters. I jumped on that in early March, but they had such a deluge of volunteers I had to wait until April so they can drastically upscale their operation so I can participate. I haven’t done a ton of shifts like others (the average is 3-4 text shifts a day, but I know one person who does 7-8 per day since their first day), but I’ve been regularly texting alerts to supporters for almost a month. I get plenty of “fuck offs”, but I get a higher amount of people thanking me for volunteering.

No it’s not cold calling numbers and trying to get support and/getting into arguments, but I believe every little bit counts. I’m better at writing anyway, and I can help a candidate I believe in. Luckily technology has allowed me to work around my mental illnesses and do necessary grunt work. I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing this all the way up to the convention and beyond.

Is There a Square Zero?

November 30, 2015

“A dream without a goal is just a wish. A goal without a plan is just a dream.”

This has surely been in the back of my mind for the last month or so. A lot of the things I’ve been trying to do haven’t had goals or plans in place. So I’m basically been wishing and dreaming a lot without achieving much. This I thought I wanted never came to pass because I never had a plan in place to get to them or goals to achieve. There have been times when I’ve been disciplined enough to get things done—I got my Masters and completed 10 screenplays—it’s the steps afterwards that I hadn’t a clue what to do next. I think this is a pattern for most of my life. A lot of things I wanted to do or be never passed because I got stuck in my own head and stayed there daydreaming. Maybe that’s why I’ve felt so asleep these days.

I’m not sure how to get the discipline I used to have back. I don’t remember what plans (if I had any) to create what I have so far. I’m not sure of the goals I have to reach for; a lot of them changed from when I was younger, but haven’t settled into a visible or tangible thing. I used to want fame; I don’t anymore. I thuoght that would lead to wealth; now I simply want to thrive and not give up more yardage. I’m kind of lost and not sure where to begin. This seems to be my biggest problem: not knowing where to start or which way to go.

pj

No Joy in Mudville

October 18, 2014

Near the beginning of the month, a friend of mine tagged me online to do a 30-day Joy Challenge. This is where you post one thing on Facebook (or Twitter or blog) that brings you joy every day for 30 days. Since I got them to do a 5-day Positivity Challenge, it made sense to tag me for this challenge. But I didn’t think I was ready to do it at that time, but I would try soon. One more step in trying to improve my outlook on things. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized tat there was no way I could do a challenge about joy.

Gratitude is not too hard. Gratitude is about being grateful for the things, people and abilities you have in you life. For every thing I listed in my challenge, I am truly grateful to have and appreciate it every day. But joy is different. Joy is the feeling of happiness or bliss you get from special things, activities and people in your life. It’s internal feeling about external things. The problem is that I haven’t felt truly happy for a long time.

Even when I was bored at my job, still dealing with my daughter’s mother’s abuse and craziness, I was depressed for sure, but there were people, projects and things that could make me happy. I may have been more by-the-numbers, but I could occasionally feel good. Since the 2008 recession, the management trap that cost me a career, and the fallout from that and child court issues, I had all the joy knocked out of me. And it wasn’t all at once; it was a steady constant pressure that squeezed the “life” out of my life. My depression and anxiety didn’t help, but the external triggers were too much and persistent. While I’m nowhere near getting better, I have some perspective to see how it happened.

There are times when I feel some happiness, but not exuberantly enough to call it joy, and certainly not enough to do it for 30 days. I’d like to, but I’d be lying if I said I could do it right now. I don’t take for granted what I have, but it will be some time before I have enough joy inside to do a 30-day joy challenge.