Recent Posts for the 'Essays (Ellen Sue Says)' Category

December: A Time to Give

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Every year at this time I start receiving many more solicitations from NGOs, non-profit organizations. Because I give small amounts to many groups, I must be on everyone’s mailing list. Sorting out the ones I feel comfortable giving to, either with Charity Navigator orfrom  previous info on the organization, I pick and choose the ones I prefer, giving to new ones on my list as well as some I give to almost every year.

Because I will be going to the west coast to celebrate my  birthday the first week of December with my children and several nieces and nephews who live in California, I wanted to let them know that I don’t need anything for my birthday, just their presence, not  their presents! Instead, I gave them a list of some of my favorite organizations — mostly food, humanitarian, and environmental groups — and let them choose to give (or not) in lieu of a personal birthday gift. They can even choose to donate to their own favorite organization.

I am posting the list in case you want to investigate these organizations and perhaps make a donation. But give from your heart as well as your pocketbook. If you begrudge giving, or you are too financially strapped to do so, then no need to feel guilty about not giving. Take care of your needs first and then give whatever you can, if you can. The quote below by diarist Anne Frank sums it up for me.  Center for Victims of Torture: 2356 University Ave.W., Ste. 430, St. Paul, MN 55114. Donations used to help survivors of torture heal their wounds, rebuild their lives, and rejoin their families and communities as caring, productive members. Earth Justice, 50 California St. Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94111. As the nation’s original and largest nonprofit environmental law organization, we leverage our expertise and commitment to fight for justice and advance the promise of a healthy world for all. We represent every one of our clients free of charge. Environmental Defense Fund, PO Box 5055, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5055. Help us protect polar bears and other living creatures from climate change, habitat destruction, and toxic pollution. Your tax-deductible donation will help create a safer future for us all. Friends of the Earth, Washington, DC and Berkeley, CA. Friends of the Earth is a bold and fearless voice for justice and the planet. “We believe all people deserve to live in a healthy environment.” Organic Consumers Association, 6771 S. Silver Hill Drive, Finland, MN 55603. This organization safeguards organic standards, promotes org. agriculture, and challenges genetic engineering and factory farming. Seacology (1623 Solano Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707) For 25 years, it has helped protect island habitats and local communities by offering a unique deal: if they agree to create or enforce a forest or marine reserve, we’ll provide funds for something the village needs, like a schoolhouse or health clinic. Global Fund for Women, 800 Market St., 7thFl., San Francisco, CA 94102. This organization envisions a world where all women are strong, safe, powerful, and heard. Mazon, 10850Wilshire Blvd. Ste 400, L.A. CA 90024: Mazon is a Jewish response to hunger and this year they are focusing on food insecure veterans the support they need. (I posted this on Veterans Day in early November.) Services all denominations and groups in need of food security. National Resource Defense Council, PO Box 1830, Merrifield, VA 2216-8030. Current project involves sending a petition to Bayer to stop using “neonic” pesticides that are a key factor in the alarming collapse of bee colonies. Progeria Research Foundation, PO Box 3453m Peabody, MA 01961. Mission: To discover treatments and the cure for Progeria and its aging-related disorders, including heart disease. Southern Poverty Law Center, PO Box 5604, Montgomery, AL, 36177-7455. Fighting Hate/Teaching Tolerance/Seeking Justice. MOrris Dees has been doing this work at risk of his own life since 1971. Union of Concerned Scientists, Two Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02138, Science for a Healthy Planet and Safer World. Puts independent science to work to solve the planets most pressing problems. United Farm Workers of America, PO Box 62, Keene, CA 93531.
Begun in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla and other early organizers, the United Farm Workers of America is the nation’s first enduring and largest farm workers union. The UFW continues organizing in major agricultural sectors, chiefly in California. (Mostly Hispanic men & women working in poor conditions.)

Note: Charity Navigator rates many of these organizations, if they are large enough. For some of the organizations, I have first-hand knowledge of what they do because I either visited the organization (ex. Mazon)  or because I know someone who is on the staff there and can vouch for the work that the organization does (ex. Progeria Foundation). You can also ask for the yearly financial profile and check to see is fundraising is a small part of their budgets and prgrams are the major part of their budgets.

One Day More

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017


Only one day more before we leave on our trip to California to celebrate not only my birthday, but also a new decade. But I am always anxious before I fly. I think of all the terrible accidents as I go through the motions of getting ready to travel: cleaning the house, doing the laundry, paying bills, emptying out the ‘fridge, sending out birthday cards ahead of the person’s birthday so I won’t forget or have to take them with me….. And I think, “Will this be the last time I do this?”

A few months ago I read Steven Levine’s powerful book, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if It Were Your Last. The whole idea of the book is to act as if you only had one year left before you die and provides ideas on how to conduct your life so there are no loose ends — mentally, spiritually, physically, financially — before you leave the planet. The book gave me a lot to think about and also how to plan for the inevitable end of life, a topic too few people talk about. But because this is a new decade for me, and having outlived my father, my mother, older sister, and almost my older brother who died earlier this year, thoughts of how to live the last days, months, and years of my life have been on my mind.


Another book that has been helpful is Susan Abel Lieberman’s book: Getting Old is a Full Time Job. Each chapter is about a different topic to tackle as you grow older, such as downsizing to a smaller home, dealing with financial matters, and putting all your important papers in order. I now have a three-ring binder called End Notes that contains important papers for my children, so that when I am gone, there will be no mysteries about the names of my banks, my checking and savings accounts, a list of what I want to give away to family members, etc. Rather than feeling morbid about this, I feel somewhat relieved, because everything I can think of is in that notebook.


So as I clean, do laundry, pay bills, and pack, I ponder. If tomorrow is my last full day here, what is important enough to dwell on? My assets? Definitely not, especially since I have none to speak of. My ex-husband went bankrupt with our family business and we lost everything and I had to start over again at age 52. My jewelry? No. I have only a few good pieces I received from my (second) husband since we married a decade or so ago, and those few pieces are already on a list.


Instead, what I am dwelling on are thoughts about a life that has been good to me, despite the divorce — a life filled with love of family and friends, good books to read, healthful foods to prepare, and cultivating an “attitude of gratitude.”  I also dwell on something that I learned as a Jew, which is the idea of Tikkun Olam, translated as repair of the world. In my first marriage, my husband and I were emergency foster parents to 12 children. Doing this gave me a sense of doing a mitzvah, a good deed, although I think I benefited as much or more than I expected.


I also volunteered at MANNA for a couple of years when I moved to Philadelphia, helping pack food for people with life-threatening diseases. Since I am a food nut, doing this gave me a good feeling of helping others eat well. Likewise, I was a volunteer for The Hunger Project in the late 1980s, presenting a four-hour program at schools on the topic of Ending Hunger. I learned that while hunger exists, it doesn’t need to, and each person can make a difference. So I now strive to make a positive difference in everything I do.


Finally, being a mother who strived to raise children to be “good citizens,” which they are, has permitted me to see that motherhood is probably the least appreciated and most important job I have had amongst all my other paid jobs in my life. Actually, I have been paid, because my children have turned into wonderful adults that are making their own lives meaningful to themselves and those around them.


Finally, December is a time when I receive solicitations from many worthwhile non-profit organizations. ( A list will appear on Dec. 1st.)  My budget allows only small donations, but I give these small donations willingly, because I do believe we are our brothers’ (and sisters’) keepers. So as I pack my clothes, pay my bills, and prepare to fly to California, I feel a mixture of anxiety, gratitude, and peacefulness. Life has been good to me and I hope I have been good to others in my life. I have come full circle and trust that I have made a difference in the lives of people I have touched, and that if this is my last day on the planet, I have no regrets!