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A Holiday Message For People (and Dogs) Who Have Enough Stuff

It’s great to have enough stuff. Maybe you can share some stuff, too.

This is not a “scold” column, or a guilt trip either. The fact is, like you I have enough stuff, but like many of us at the holidays, I was out shopping for even more stuff when I met Clint and his dog at the off-ramp of the westbound 101 Freeway at Laurel Canyon.  Clint, his dog and his sign – “SOBER, HUNGRY AND OUT OF WORK”  -- just happened to remind me that I have enough stuff, and that now is a good time to give stuff to people with less stuff.  

And, no deadline here – if you happen to miss Christmas, Hanukkah or any other December holiday you tend to celebrate, people with less stuff than you have will still need stuff next year, too.

I probably wouldn’t have stopped if Clint had not been accompanied by his Old English Sheepdog. In fact, I didn’t stop on the way down the ramp because it would have caused a three-car pile-up; I parked a block or two farther South on Ventura and walked back with my donation clutched in one hand.  I’m as quick as anyone to lock my car door or walk the other way if a stranger makes me nervous, but it never crossed my mind to be afraid of someone with a dog this cute.

Clint’s sunny-faced companion reminded me that even my dog has enough stuff.  Heidi was, at that moment, enjoying a day at doggie day care, with decorations and even a Santa available for photos with lucky pets.  I know Heidi well enough to know she’d be happy to share her stuff with this dog, including her column.

Clint’s story:  He has two Sheepdogs. He calls this 9-year-old by two names: “Mariah when she’s good, and Shania when she’s bad”  (apparently he’s a fan of women who can belt out a song). The dog at home is Lucky, age 13.  These are not exactly mutts, and Clint, sober for 14 months, has a place to live and an Internet connection.  Problem is, he and his wife were in a car accident about three months ago that has left both with injuries, mounting medical bills and lost jobs.  

He may not be the single most desperate individual in Los Angeles, but this Sherman Oaks resident is a neighbor on the edge. “I’m just trying to make the rent,” Clint says. He also knows the effect of the dog: “There are a lot of dog lovers out there who wouldn’t be willing to help if I was just by myself.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that you give money to people who stand by the freeway if that’s not your thing, dog or no dog.  I know there many who believe that folks you see asking for money on the street or by the freeway could be working somewhere if they weren’t so lazy.  Personally I happen to think it has more to do with lack of ability or opportunity, or, frequently, mental illness (although I feel for business owners who have their own efforts hampered by people panhandling at their doors).  I believe Clint when he says:  “If I could find a way to work and feed my family the way I need to, I would.” But we don’t need to argue that point.  Just find whatever avenue you prefer for giving, and give.

This is not to say you should stop buying stuff for yourself, and for other people you know who already have enough stuff.  That’s good too, because it creates jobs for the people who make stuff to sell to you, and for the people have jobs selling stuff to you. Get an iPhone.  Get an iPad.  Get a whole iLife if you want one (even though there are so many bodies crowding the Apple store at Sherman Oaks Fashion Square right now that it actually smells like a locker room at a gym).  It’s all good.  Go buy stuff. Just keep in mind that it’s also good to give stuff away.  That’s really all Heidi the dog and I have to say today.

Mary McGrath December 24, 2011 at 03:54 PM
This is a wonderful article. Thank you for your heartfelt post.
Thelma Davidson December 24, 2011 at 05:45 PM
I think spontaneous giving is wonderful. You see a need and fill it; a response from the heart. Generally, I like to send cheques to the "little" charities, who operate hands on locally. I start with the Salvation Army and work my way down to the small missions who feed and offer temporary warmth. I like to "adopt" little kids in third world countries through VISION. When I receive a photo and a little note my heart is happy. We can't save the world but we can save one person at a time even for a day. Merry Christmas to all.
James Dorsey December 24, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Diane, You really hit the mark with this one. We all have too much stuff, no matter how little that is. Anyone who travels abroad knows this to be true. A very empathetic and thought provoking article.
Sharon Schwartz December 24, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Diane, Thanks for remembering to pay attention to those who have less stuff. We had an amazing experience this year with an organization that I highly recommend, The Giving Spirit. Ken, Emmy and I delivered bags filled with winter essentials and warm blankets to those with way less stuff living on the streets in our very own neighborhood. Ruby and Buddy would have joined us but they were at home catching up on some apparently much needed sleep. Anyway we hope you, Heidi and Alan have wonderful holidays filled lots of giving. Hope to see you in the New Year.
Diane Haithman and Heidi December 24, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Thanks Mary, Thelma, Jim and Sharon! I know that a lot of people who read Heidi's column are already out there giving and sharing this holiday season, and these are great suggestions. Keep 'em coming! Happy Holidays, Diane and Heidi
Alan Feldstein December 24, 2011 at 08:52 PM
I love the Patch for many reasons. One is it keeps me informed of local stuff. The other is that 2 of my favorite women (Diane & Heidi) write for the Patch. But today the reason I love the Patch is that it gives me the opportunity to publicly say what a very cool and beautiful wife I have who writes elegantly and says it like it is. Having just gotten back from Africa where people have a lot less stuff but seem a lot happier I thought her message was just about perfect. Everyday we should think about the message in her article. Love you lots!
deborah kaye December 24, 2011 at 09:08 PM
wonderful column and so true. thanks for bringing it home. love to all, the stuff-ful and stuff-less this holiday season, Diane's column shows us how we all can help each other to get a long!
Mike Szymanski December 24, 2011 at 11:17 PM
This article from Diane and Heidi has touched many... great words to live by! Please don't hesitate to pass the link around and share the words of wisdom! http://patch.com/A-pD78
Diane Haithman and Heidi December 25, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Posting this one for Barbara, a terrific journalist, activist and mom, definitely visit the Jester & Pharley website (below) and learn the story behind her labor of love and how the fund helps kids facing illness. And don't forget the kids in the hospital -- The Jester & Pharley are ready to bring them cheer that lasts all year, and more. Happy holidays and happy new year to you, Diane! Love, Barbara Barbara Saltzman Executive Director The Jester & Pharley Phund P.O. Box 817 Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274 310-265-0119; fax: 310-377-7935 website: www.thejester.org Donate Now!
Anthea Raymond (Editor) December 25, 2011 at 12:50 AM
Thank you Diane and Heidi for reminding us why we celebrate!

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