Saturday, January 16, 2010

Help for Haiti

One of my favorite things to dabble in is frugality. I know that sounds strange ("dabble in frugality") but I really enjoy reading tips and tricks about saving money. By nature I'm a penny pincher. I got it from my dad, who was born right after the Great Depression. His parents owned a dairy farm and were extremely much so, that when my grandmother passed away ten years ago, she left both her sons a sizeable inheritance. I love challenging myself to spend the least amount at the grocery store; to shop at thrift stores for things that don't need to be new; to teach my children the value of a dollar. We've been fairly successful. We have a small income yet are blessed enough to pay our bills and occasionally take reasonably priced family vacations and enjoy some nice things.

Charity has always been important to me as well. I want my children to grow up learning that money does not multiply when you hold on to it so tightly. My daughter has internalized this message well and is quite generous with her money. My husband and I have both tried to stress the importance of good works--whether it be through money or service--to our children.

Often times when disasters strike, my first response is shock and denial, as though the event is somewhat surreal. Such was my reaction to the earthquake in Haiti earlier this week. I was involved in my own daily routine and took notice, but not enough notice. That embarrasses me. My daughter brought it to my attention later the next evening, telling me there had been an earthquake in Haiti and the Red Cross thought there were "lots of people" who had died.
And this Haiti perched itself on my shoulder.

With my husband out of work currently, our money is tighter than usual. I thought about what I felt comfortable with being able to donate. Then I thought about my kids, who both had been given a tidy sum of cash at Christmas. We held a meeting and agreed that we would all contribute, then we read about different nonprofits who are working in Haiti. Together, we chose Doctors Without Borders to donate our small sum.

I feel guilty that our sum wasn't larger. I wish I was comfortable at this time being able to donate a larger amount. But my heart has been warmed as I have been visiting many of my favorite frugal websites. So many frugal bloggers are making donations to various charities to assist in Haiti. At a time when so many Americans are feeling the economic squeeze, it is amazing that literally thousands are banding together to give whatever they can. Some bloggers are donating a certain amount per comment or link. Some are giving what they would normally spend on entertainment in a month or vowing to eat from their pantry and give up their grocery money. Our personal donation came from money that was saved by eating at home the last few weeks, combined with savvy shopping.

When I was twenty-one, I traveled to the Soviet Union for twelve days. That experience made me realize how incredibly fortunate we are in our country. We have resources and protections and money that provide us with the ability to call luxuries "essentials". I think of the people in Haiti at this moment who are struggling to survive, being dug out of rubble they've been buried in for days. I hope that our donation helps a little bit. But I'm confident that our donation, combined with yours and those of so many others, will make a significant difference.

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