Every year, come holiday time, my fictional PI Joe Kozmarski starts thinking charitably. For Joe, most of the year is All About Me. He’s constantly thinking thoughts like, “How can I keep this guy from stuffing me into that industrial furnace?” Or “How can I stop that serial-killing woman from shooting me in the forehead?” Me, me, me. To tell the truth, it gets to be too much and sometimes Joe gets sick of himself.
So, on or about December 1, he starts to look outward and upward. When, at the end of a day, he hears the Salvation Army bells ringing outside the neighborhood Jewel Foodstore, he glances into the sky, fixes his eyes on a bright star, and starts singing “Silent Night.” Spontaneously. Loudly. Until the store manager comes out and asks him to leave. Feeling charitable, he goes without a fight.
Then, he drives home (singing “Oh, Holy Night”), pulls out the old checkbook, and writes a check for whatever he can spare and often a little more.
Other people send money to the American Cancer Society. Or
. Or the American Red Cross. Or the ASPCA. All good causes, and Joe is sure they deserve every cent they get. Boys Town
But those aren’t the charities for him. Joe looks for neglected charities – the kinds that he figures no one else will be contributing to. That way he can be doubly charitable: charitable to whatever cause the charity is supporting and charitable to the charity itself which probably also is in need.
This year, in spite of the bad economy, Joe has done well, so he’s writing a big check to Heifer International (www.heifer.org). Specifically, he’s buying a llama ($150) for a family who lives in the
Andes and a camel ($850) for a family in . With his spare change, he’s donating a hive of honeybees ($30) to a village in Tanzania . El Salvador
He’s tucking into his memory certain facts to share with his environmentally conscientious ex-wife – facts that make this a gift that Joe can live with. For example, “As they travel, llamas' padded feet don't damage the fragile terrain and their selective browsing doesn't destroy sparse vegetation.” And “Placed strategically, beehives can as much as double some fruit and vegetable yields.” He hopes his ex-wife doesn’t ask about the camel.
Now that he’s done with his charitable giving, he needs ideas for his mom, who, when he has asked her what she wants, has said, Only your happiness, Joe – which is something she isn’t going to get. He surfs the net for a while and, coming up empty, lands back at the Heifer International site. It says that Andean women load their llamas “with goods for market and trek with them across rugged slopes at high altitudes.” A llama would be an unusual gift for his mom, he thinks, but it has promise.