Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Simple Gifts

Today I am reminded of a Kahlil Gibran quote, "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." I am overwhelmed with the desire to give. Fortunately, I am in a position where I can give of my time and I intend to give generously. I don't think that my motivations are entirely altruistic because of the simple fact that being able to do these things, to be useful, to be busy, makes me so happy. Un-fortunately, there are too many people, places and organizations that are in need of help. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the numbers of causes, the scale of 'help' that is needed around the world. I feel like I am using an eyedropper to put out a fire. But with encouragement from my sweetheart, I push these feelings aside and remember that I am one person and I do my best to do my best.

On Wednesdays I am a volunteer at the Noel Wien Public Library in Fairbanks. It is a beautiful library, and offers many outreach services to the interior of Alaska. The beauty of the library really takes your breath away. It sits in the middle of fifteen acres of park land. On the northern side of the library are six acres which are maintained by the Fairbanks Botanical Society. In the summer it will be covered by wildflowers. There are benches and paths for biking and walking. To the east is an open field with a large bird bath and a footbridge. I can't wait to see it surrounded by green and life.

Right now it is full of life on the inside. Trees grow in the lobby, there are plants everywhere and it is full of local artwork. Many of the exterior walls are glass from floor to ceiling and offer a pleasant view of the snowy outdoors - which makes you realize just how cozy it is inside. If you want to be really cozy, you can curl up in the fireplace room. What a haven for the residents of Fairbanks.

In addition to being a wonderful place to visit, the library and the librarians & pages who work there do wonderful things. Today we helped with part of the Guys Read program - "a web-based literacy program whose mission it is to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers." The library has a fantastic Bookmobile which serves outlying areas of the borough, which incidentally covers 7,444 square miles! Only slightly smaller than the entire state of New Jersey. There are outreach services for those who are home-bound, offered free of charge. (Interestingly, there is an author who writes mystery novels who was inspired by her time as a driver of the Fairbanks Bookmobile in the 1970s. Sue Henry has written Murder on the Iditarod Trail, The Serpents Trail, and about a dozen other mysteries.) There is also a books-by-mail regional service for residents of the bush, , and the librarian devoted to this service collects information from readers and sends them books that they might enjoy. There's a lot going on here! I'm really enjoying learning more about the wonderful people who work here and promote reading and vigorously defend public access to information. Even if it's only one day a week, it makes me very happy to be a part of this organization.

Today I did the last of our recycling on post. Adam and I decided that, from now on, we are going to recycle at the Fairbanks Rescue Mission. It started when we saw a commercial thanking the residents of Fairbanks for bringing recycling materials to the Mission. (Fairbanks does not offer curb-side recycling services, nor are there recycling machines in stores. All recycling is done voluntarily.) They have started a Green Collar jobs program. "This program uses the Fairbanks Rescue Mission Recycling Center to create an employment environment in which the participant can be trained, evaluated, and certified in an actual work environment. The Green Collar Job Program is a holistic approach to attaining these goals. Mission residents operate the entire recycling operation and subsequently will not only gain a valuable sense of accomplishment but will also learn viable employment skills. The program is committed to adults who have employment barriers and focuses on their development as employees. Program participants will receive job placement, job training, careers counseling and resume preparation need to the community." In the commercial, the Mission director acknowledges the fact that it is 'inconvenient' to cart your recycling to their location, but then reminds us how much more inconvenient it is to be homeless. It really touched me at my core. Homelessness is frightening anywhere, but to think of being homeless here, where the alternative means living in life-threatening weather makes me want to cry.

The Fairbanks Rescue Mission is the only overnight men's emergency shelter and women's emergency shelter in the interior of Alaska. Let me say that again. The ONLY overnight men's emergency shelter and women's emergency shelter in the interior of Alaska. The Interior, generally measured as the area south of the Arctic Circle, north of the Alaska Range, west of Canada and (arbitrarily) east of 154 degrees west longitude, covers more than 167,644 square miles. 
This is the larger than the state of California. One shelter. They are in need of help. The more that I read about their mission, their resources, the more I know that my next goal is to volunteer there as well.  I've got my application ready and will bring it in tomorrow. I know that there are many organizations that are worthy and offer good services, but if you're in the giving mood, please take a moment to read about the Fairbanks Rescue Mission.

To give - "to transfer possession of something concrete or abstract". And although I take Gibran's counsel to heart, I'm sure that organizations like these appreciate when you give of your possessions, too.

I'm so very thankful. For everything.

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