February 01, 2014

Appreciate what you have. Share with those who have not.

My mother was a master of making ends meet.  I grew up in a single income family of seven.  Budgets were always tight, everything was rationed and expenses were prioritized out of necessity.  Meals were home cooked because nutrition mattered and back then the healthy food was cheaper than the crap.  We got two spoonfuls of sugar and one glass of milk a day.  Margarine was cheaper than butter and brand-name products never entered our home.  Our hand-me-down clothes got patched when the knees wore out.  When my eye glasses broke (twice!) in the middle, they got mended with duct tape and I wore them for months until we could afford to make the repair.  My mother could stretch a dollar better than anyone I knew.  We didn’t have much, but she made sure we never went hungry and we had preventative medical care.  Being young, I didn’t appreciate my mother’s budgeting prowess and as I compared myself to my friends I always came up short.  I felt underprivileged, neglected, and downright poor.  That is, until my mother taped the Oxfam photo to our refrigerator door. 

The photo showed a severely malnourished African child’s hand resting lightly in the palm of a healthy Caucasian’s.  The child’s hand was unfathomably small and emaciated; the little bones poked through and were so tiny they appeared bird-like.  The skin which covered them looked thin and fragile.  I was struck by how the child’s little hand was dwarfed by the healthy Caucasian fingers it lay on.  There was no caption under the photo because it didn’t need one.  The message was clear:  poverty and hunger are real.  That photo changed my perspective on life forever.  I was embarrassed to have felt so sorry for myself when there were others who needed so much. 

Poverty, hunger, and even homelessness are not exclusive to Africa.  These conditions exist both worldwide and closer to home.  According to the US Census Bureau, 44% of Pullman’s population and 29.7% of Moscow’s population lived, between 2008 and 2012, below the poverty level.  These levels are significantly higher than their respective state averages of 12.9% (Washington) and 14.20% (Idaho).  The website of Family Promise states that 1 in 14 people receive food stamps in Whitman County and 30-40 students are homeless each year in both the Moscow and Pullman school districts.  The need is real and the need is local.

Neill Public Library and Whitman County Library District have joined together to offer a helping hand.  But we need your generosity to make it happen.  During the month of February, both libraries will accept bags of non-perishable donations to benefit our local food banks.  Neill Public Library is accepting both food and non-food items; Whitman County Library is accepting only food.  In gratitude, for every bag of donated items, each library will waive up to $10 in overdue fines from your library account.   For a list of eligible donations please contact Neill Library at 509-334-3595, Whitman County Library at 877-733-3375, or visit our websites at www.neill-lib.org or www.whitco.lib.wa.us .  In our country, February is a traditional time when we celebrate love and express our appreciation of those around us.  Help your local library spread the love.  Appreciate what you have and share with those who have not.

Joanna Bailey

Library Director, Neill Public Library
2/1-2/2/14, Moscow Pullman Daily News

No comments: