Teri Orr: Small acts of kindness, like a large tip for your server, will make our holidays brighter
I can tell you a surefire way to make certain you can give a cash donation directly to a real human this season and you can be confident of the results. It is my favorite thing to do — especially in December. Take yourself to your favorite restaurant but maybe — even better — your favorite diner. Order a meal by yourself or with your family or friends. And when the bill comes, you pay for the meal and then you TIP an equal amount to your server. So if your bill is $25 — you tip an additional $25. I can assure you it is unexpected and appreciated and if you do it in cash — all the better. No paperwork — no wondering if your gift is fully reaching someone who really needs it.
I know — it is a gift of two minds — on the one side it seems like it is a silly/excessive thing to do in proportion to your bill and yet on the other — it doesn’t seem like very much to do to make a meaningful gift during the season. I can assure you — if are going to give cash this season — this is a slam dunk feel-good gift. Years ago when I lived at Lake Tahoe, my favorite librarian had suggested the idea to me — when I said I wanted a way to help at the holidays that was direct and where a modest donation/gift would have a clear, unfiltered impact. Tahoe in the ’70s — like Park City then and now — was run/does run … on the backs of folks who often struggle from paycheck to paycheck. The holidays are fraught with expectation and disappointment and let’s be honest — a lot of folks who appear to have left their manners elsewhere.
Looking for a source of joy should be the seasonal default. The scents at the Christmas tree lot cost nothing — the Douglas fir — the cedar boughs — the piñon pine burning in the bonfire. There are cinnamon stick beverages and prickly holly leaves. And I don’t care who you are — if you don’t smile at a child squealing at a (possible) reindeer sighting — you lack the magic muscle.
At our Southern border, tonight, there are children sleeping on cement floors inside cages who haven’t bathed in weeks. They are hungry and tired and scared and possibly sick and confused because they are separated from their families. Politics shouldn’t enter into this conversation but humanity should. We are better than this. And in this season of charity we need clarity about the small acts of kindness that might make a significant difference in just one life or one family’s life.
There are numerous organizations — religious and not at all — that are trying to work in those border towns to help in so many ways. To my friend Sheryl, a lawyer from El Paso and Sister Mary Ann from Park City and Chicago, and all the folks whose names we will never know — your work defines not only your life and your moral compass but it defines the best of who we are and what we can give of our time and talents.
After that, the tidings of the holidays become a bit a tangled in tinsel and the wrappings of a successful town and all the shiny people here who present “as if.” You know … “as if” they were in a good marriage or had kids without drug issues or loved their job or their boss. They look pretty enough and happy enough and their car seems fast enough and their grocery bags seem full enough so they aren’t who we think of during the holidays. But they are often suffering silently almost invisibly among us.
At the brand new, beautiful facility, built by this community, this year — the Peace House — for victims of domestic violence — the beds won’t be empty this holiday season. Aren’t empty now. In those safe, clean rooms are victims who left because they were afraid for their lives. Afraid for their children. They need more than a safe place to stay. They need hope. And there are teams of people there to help them find hope. And those people then go home and take all those sorrows with them and try to leave them outside and bring their best holiday self into the room with their own family.
The DJs on KPCW — our local NPR affiliate — who volunteer all day long to make sure the station stays vibrant and a key connector to this community — they leave their own family on the holidays. The reporters from this paper who are “on call” in case a story “breaks.” Our police and fire people who won’t be in their own beds on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve so we can be smug as a bug in a rug in our homes knowing if we dialed the 911 number they — those emergency services folks — would immediately respond.
Small towns work best when we work together. When we recognize and respect and lift up each other. Here’s a suggestion to make your holidays bright … brighter. Take an hour — more if you can — and write three letters to three people who might need to hear you appreciate their contribution to making this town better. The magical part of this is everyone can afford to give this gift. Everyone will be surprised and warmed to receive it. And when we take the time to write those notes we become warmed in the realization that this town is filled with generous people who are givers every single day, just by doing their jobs. Every day — including holidays and all the Sundays in our Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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