Today I did something I haven't done in many years. I left my house, walked to the woods, and walked right into overgrowth. I didn't use the path managed by my wife's uncle and his bright orange Kubota. I didn't take my phone, a pen and paper, a child, or a walking stick. I plunged into thorns and fallen leaves ankle deep and I wandered. I tried not to look for anything, since it's NOvember after all, and what I really want to see, animals like snakes (I especially and foolishly look forward to finding a copperhead in these woods), turtles, salamanders, and frogs, have all gone to ground for a little while. Well, wait. I don't really know for sure. You see, I'm in North Carolina now and I don't know the laws of hibernation here. It's been cool, and rainy, and NOvember for about eight days now. And if the wild animals around here are anything like me, they hate NOvember too, and will sleep through it if possible. I know I would.
It's NOvember. I hate NOvember. It's a dreary, downhill run into the holidays. In spite of my beloved mother's best and earnest efforts to create family traditions and bright holiday celebrations, I look upon the holiday season with dread. Food is made in heaps and thrown away in heaps. Rooms full of cigarette smoking older relatives shout at football games or each other. The same two people wash the whole family's dishes in a kitchen glutted with other capable adults looking on and critiquing a job done well below their standards. It happens every year. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers do ALL of the shopping, planning, cleaning, preparing, serving, wrapping, placating, soothing, hand wringing, and tiptoeing so the men in the family can complain about This Country's problems and fall asleep in front of the Detroit Lions losing...again.
I'll spend the next few months, easily into February (which is runner up for Worst Month of the Year), praying for some Universal Power to unhitch me from this clod of dirt and fling me into eternity, or I'll look at my outrageous, beautiful children and thank that same Universal Power that these humans I helped make are here and filling my days with credible reasons to stay put and see what they do next. And look, my family isn't that dysfunctional. We have normal holidays filled with plenty of laughter and warmth. But there are plenty of families who don't have a pot to piss in, let alone a kitchen to break bread in or a living room to storm out of later. So let's do something different this holiday season. All that money we're going to spend on turkey, wrapping paper, stockings and the requisite stuffers, gift bags, disposable containers for leftovers, plates with holiday decorations on them? You know? That's a lot of loot. Put it all in a pile on the table and see just how much is there. And instead of doing all that stuff with it, which is nice stuff, don't get me wrong, but instead of that, write a check to a homeless shelter, a transitional house, a recovery house, a domestic violence charity. Fill a few grocery bags with food and donate it to a food bank on behalf of your beautiful grandchildren who have plenty--they have you, and a kitchen stocked with food AND love. They have enough, but so many don't.
Here are some places I know of that need your help:
NAOMI Transitional House
Monroe County Opportunity Program
And here's one I care a lot about. If you're in Toledo, OH, you can support Promise House Toledo lots of ways. Calvino's Restaurant and Wine Bar hosts a poetry reading that supports PHT with a goodwill coffee donation, and an annual sock drive called Socktober.
I'm not familiar with a few of these places. I just did a quick google search. It's that easy. Find an outreach you feel you can support and do it. Wherever you are in the world, please look for places like these that need resources of money, time, and compassion. Go read stories to children in transitional housing. Vote for city leaders who support Domestic Violence legislation that protects victims. Visit nursing homes. Make NOvember bearable.