March 30, 2007
Gifts of giving
I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee this morning when the call came in asking about a brief story in our March issue, “New Orleans school gets ‘new’ library.”
“Oops,” I thought. “What did I get wrong?” A reflexive reaction, alas. And the tale of how books from a school in Wildrose, N.D., that closed wound up in one in New Orleans that was re-built after being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina had twists and turns...where a long-distance reporter could go astray.
But, no, this early caller just wanted to know how she could donate some more books. I found the e-mail for the man who made the connection happen, Phil Blom, an ELCA pastor from Neenah, Wis., who has been serving as “chaplain to Katrina recovery” since 2006, and called her back.
We had a good chat about this good project, and I asked her why she wanted to make this gift. “It’s for Thomas’ birthday,” she said. And then told me about her nephew—“precocious, intelligent and still such a sweet boy”—who will turn four in May. No surprise, he loves to read. So to celebrate this child, his aunt will add new books to shelves of the New Orleans’ school.
Each of her eight nieces and nephews, aged one to 19, gets similar birthday presents. The gift for the girl who loves animals goes to the Heifer Project. A teen whose interest is anthropology received notice of a donation in her name to an AIDS project in Namibia. There was a contribution to a local hospice which had cared for the grandfather of other teens.
“I started right after the tsunami,” she said about these gifts. “I looked at so much suffering and just couldn’t go on, shopping as usual. So I’m giving the gift of Christian charity and of social responsibility. The ones who are older understand and are very pleased.”
I think Thomas will be, too. Maybe not yet, but as he grows up this legacy of caring that he and his cousins are being given will surely be a gift that keeps on giving.