“If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa
I’m not writing this piece out of any desire to blow my own horn. People all over the world give generously of their time and money to help others, and the amounts I give to charities are just “drops in the bucket.” However, every dollar counts when it comes to feeding hungry children and finding cures for the diseases that affect them, not to mention providing heat in the winter for families that cannot afford it, etc., etc. The list of “needs,” many of them quite desperate, goes on and on.
Of course, most poets don’t make a lot of money selling their books and I’m certainly no exception. Poetry can be a tough sell and the small presses (that publish the majority of us) can’t afford to do a lot of marketing. But I do make some—and it is from my own poetry “stash” of “profits” that I donate money to charity, since most of everything else we make is tied up in our family’s own maintenance and survival.
I’m not complaining, mind you—we’re lucky to have food and shelter during these tough times in our country’s economy. But it’s been such a blessing to me to have this “extra” cash from which I’m able to give to a variety of worthwhile causes, even if it’s only ten, fifteen or twenty dollars at a time.
And so often, people “pay it forward.” Last year, I sent a check to a friend of mine who was “hurting” financially. Instead of using this cash to help herself, she bought a used guitar and currently volunteers at Hospice in the town where she lives, serenading patients with her “new” guitar. She told me that she also reads them poetry from my books. I can’t express how good it feels to know that my poems—read in my friend’s lovely voice and in her warm and caring presence—are giving comfort to people in what could be their final hours on earth.
I understand that people grow weary of solicitations, particularly during the holidays, but just imagine if every writer on “She Writes” donated a few dollars (from what they make in profits) to charity this Thanksgiving and Christmas! It would mean a great deal to so many people. Some of my favorite charities are St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Feed the Children, our local rescue mission and The Christian Appalachian Project. But there are many others that could use our financial assistance.
Also, I’ve found that being a poet/writer can be very helpful when it comes to volunteer efforts, particularly in the medical community. Poetry is incredibly healing to both read and write, and I’ve been blessed to work with a chaplain at a local Cancer Center, finding various ways to use poetry in ministering to cancer patients.
Just the other day, I (along with a very courageous art teacher currently receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer) helped facilitate an “art and poetry” patient “retreat” where people were able to use visual art and words to make beautiful “posters” that are going to be displayed in the hallway of the Cancer Center. This is just one of the many ways we can use our writing talents to give to others.
No doubt many of you (probably most of you!) are already giving your time and money to help those in need…but I just want to say that one of the most rewarding and gratifying parts of being a published poet has been this ability to give these small donations to causes near and dear to my heart—and to volunteer at the Cancer Center and other places where a poet might come in handy...
Naturally, it’s a wonderful feeling when someone tells me that a poem of mine has truly touched him or her. But bringing a little poetry into the life of a “sister” suffering with breast cancer, or knowing that some of the money I earn with my very own words and hard work in the “world” of marketing will go toward heating an elderly person’s home this winter, is just as good, and maybe even better. I can definitely say that being able to "use" poetry as a way to love others makes me love poetry even more!