Reflections from the Cockpit January 2007
“Making a Difference”
Many of my past reflections for the New Year usually focused on the old, the new, reflecting and taking stock of what we do. As the past holiday season began, Hadley and I did a lot of reflecting of this past year. Here in the Pacific Northwest we had some abnormal weather; at least that is what we have been told. This is only our second winter in our home twenty miles north of Seattle since I retired from UCSB in June of 2005. Yes, Hadley and I decided to move from sunny Santa Barbara to this green, cloud covered, tree rich, rainy environment. We have to say we love it up here.
The weather challenges were devastating to many people here. Record floods and winds caused havoc. Our minor problems (hole in the roof, neighbors tree taking out the back fence, stream through the garage due to ground water) were nothing compared to people who lost everything. Without getting into politics, we have to say we are very frustrated by the senseless lives that are being lost and that 360 billion+ tax dollars have been spent to destroy a foreign country and then rebuild it and yet we cannot feed hungry US citizens and help rebuild damaged areas in our own country. You may ask what does any of this have to do with sea kayaking. It doesn’t. However, my experience with the paddling community has shown me that paddlers are folks who care about the environment, are well grounded and have a sense of responsibility to the global community. Therefore, I decided to share our reflections with you because we can all make a difference.
Hadley and I talked about how we can make a difference in our own community. We realize that everyone has their own beliefs and personally decides how they contribute to society. Some do community service, some donate money, others donate clothes and household goods, etc. Aside from our personal donations to different charities during the year we felt a need to do more. One thing that tugs at our hearts are the poor folks who are out in the street and along highway exits asking for money to buy food. In the Seattle area there appear to be a good number of them who are veterans. We find it sad that those who have served our country have to beg on street corners for a meal. We know there are shelters and programs run by the city, but they don’t reach everyone. I grew up in New York City and I have dealt with panhandlers all of my life. I am not in favor of giving someone money to subsidize a drug or alcohol addiction. I am in favor of feeding hungry people who are down on their luck.
With that in mind Hadley and I decided to use our Christmas gift money to buy a few hundred dollars of McDonald’s food cards this season and distribute them to people who were hungry. We chose McDonald’s, because their numerous locations provide easy access and a dollar menu at which a five-dollar food card can buy a few meals. We went out on Christmas morning to the downtown Seattle area and the cards were gone in five minutes. We then emptied our wallets. As we drove off and turned the corner we saw another 200+ people in the park who were waiting for the food shelters to open for a Christmas meal. With tears in our eyes we said, “We need to do more.”
As a result we have decided to contribute a portion of the gross sales from USK to feeding hungry people. In addition, we are adding a place on the USK store for donations that will go directly to this cause. Please refer to our “Make a Difference” page to get more details if you are interested.
There are so many charities. There are people in need in all communities and around the world. We feel very blessed for what we have and feel fortunate to live in such a free country. It is easy to feel helpless and frustrated, because the number of needy is overwhelming. We realized we needed to do more and we wanted to feel like we were making a difference. By distributing the food cards directly to those in need it made us feel we were making a difference (no matter how small in the big picture).
We encourage all of you in the kayaking community to ask yourself “how can I make a difference?” and then go do it.
Hadley and I wish all of you, our fellow sea kayakers and USK supporters a very happy and more importantly, a healthy 2007.
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