Giving therapy


I used to be one of those people who had a black belt in shopping. I’m not much of a shopper anymore. I like a great pair of jeans, I like a great purse, I like a great white blouse, I like a great pair of shoes that are beautiful and not treacherous. I’m forever in pursuit of those things, not much more. Well, maybe the perfect crab cake.

This past month my employer, Hawaii Medical Service Association, conducted its annual employee food drive, a friendly competition among floors and departments up and down a football field. Weekly weigh ins and cash donations determine how far down the field a team would progress.

We brought in canned goods and other shelf-stable products that the Hawaii Foodbank could distribute to organizations such as Hawaii Catholic Charities and the Institute for Human Services. I understand nearly a tenth of Hawaii’s population seeks food from such service agencies. Some of these people are homeless, but some of them are families with working parents and children in school. They pay the bills and there’s not much money left for food.

Even if we’re just remembering our lean college days, I think we might all recall a time when we made a meal out of popcorn and Slim Jims, or cheap hotdogs from the convenience store.

Unfortunately, the people with the least money eat rather poorly. It’s expensive to eat well, to buy fresh produce, have a place to store it, prepare it and eat it. Why bother when a fast-food restaurant can feed the family for about the cost of a spaghetti squash? Something’s wrong when it costs more to buy broccoli than it does to buy burgers. Talk about health-care issues: diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular challenges. Fruits and vegetables are Mother Nature’s remedy to so many issues, as are whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins. How can Hawaii’s poor and hungry get these items?

My colleagues made sure there were a lot of beans, rice and chicken broth donated. There was also the expected loads of Spam, Vienna Sausage, and canned tuna. We tossed the buggy pasta. People shouldn’t donate what they don’t want. They should donate something that they know will truly benefit a hungry person or family. In this football game of donations, money bought more yardage than heavy food. Note to self.

When the shift from being a consumer to being a donor occurs, something deep and emotional happens. The bell ringers for the Salvation Army will take your money, and if that satisfies your guilty itch, then that’s a start. But really what you should be looking for is the seed of empathy to grow within, even if it results in a nagging sorrow for those we see day after day on the streets, lost in a private chemical brain lock.

Hawaii’s hungry are our neighbors, the big family in the little apartment, the senior citizen trying to get by on a Social Security check and a meager pension. Giving therapy occurs when those of us who have the means dig deeper and give a little more. Think about that during the holidays and see if you can stretch your wallet and yourself just a little bit more for someone in need.

One of my favorite words is IMAGINE. Sometimes it’s important to imagine the worst.