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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

If you had one last wish, what would it be?

Like many people across the country, I was captivated last week by the story of Brenden Foster. Brenden was an 11 year old boy living in the Seattle, WA area. I never met him, but discovering his story quite accidentally while checking my Yahoo email account gave me more to think about than a year's worth of email, quite frankly!

When Brenden was diagnosed with what would be a fatal bout with leukemia, he was asked to make a wish, for something extraordinary, something that would bring him joy. That's not unusual, for many children who are ill are offered that kind of opportunity, as they should be. What was unusual was Brenden's response. Seeing a large group of homeless people lined up for a meal while he was in the car, getting home from the doctor's office, Brenden saw his wish: "I should just get them something." His wish was passed along to some volunteers, who made hundreds of sandwich meals in brown paper bags with "Love, Brenden" written on them. But it didn't stop there. The story began to spread and something about the utter selflessness of Brenden's wisdom touched a lot of people, even in the midst of this scary recession. Food drives have now sprung up all over the country, in memory of a young boy who simply had his eyes open to the realities around him, realities we are often so ready to dismiss as being more than we can handle. Brenden passed away on Friday, November 21, 2008, but the thoughts and actions he left behind challenge all of us.

If you want to know more about Brenden Foster, just Google him! (By the way, that is the correct spelling of his name, not "Brendan.") If you want to know how you can help the homeless, why not consider the local possibilities?

I've already told you that the Library collects non-perishable food for the Self-Help Closet and Pantry, so next time you're stopping in for a book or DVD, why not bring a box of pasta, some soup, rice, or canned vegetables? Make it easy and look for "two for one" deals at the grocery store, which enable you to fill up a bag for very little money. Same thing with our Mitten Tree: with all the discounts being offered at retail stores right now, it doesn't cost much to pick up a warm winter hat or mittens, which will go to a local person in need this winter. The Mitten Tree can be found at locations across Des Plaines - check here for details. The Self-Help Pantry and Mitten Tree collections are on the second floor of the Library - follow the candy cane trail.

What are other ways you can help the homeless?
  • The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless sells special coffee blends and the proceeds benefit local homeless persons. Learn more about "Home Ground" here, and order online. Even if you aren't a coffee drinker, buy a few pounds and add them to Christmas baskets with some home-baked items - your friends will love you for it!

  • The Enterprising Kitchen is a Chicago-area non-profit that provides work to unemployed/underemployed women at risk. Women receive paid employment, intensive job training, life skills training, financial planning and many other support services, with the goal of each woman moving into sustainable employment within a few months. It is often said that a "hand up" can be more helpful than a "hand out," so support the workers of The Enterprising Kitchen by purchasing their lovely handmade soaps and spa products. The products are reasonable, high quality and will do good in our neighboring community while making your holiday shopping burden a lot lighter.
A few suggestions, in honor of Brenden Foster's simple yet profound wish. If you would like to add your own ideas, please do so! I know that the difficult economy is on everyone's mind right now, but rather than dwelling on our own problems, isn't it healthier and more satisfying to think about what we can do for others?

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