Sunday, November 23, 2008

Giving Thanks

Brenden Foster died on Friday, November 21. His death wasn't reported on many television news programs or in many newspapers. But, it should have. In his short eleven years, he influenced more people than most of us will in a life decades longer.

You might have heard about him on CNN or read about him in Seattle-area newspapers. Brenden had cancer, and as his life drew to an end, he wanted to make a difference. On a drive, Brenden noticed a group of homeless people. That sight affected him deeply. He wanted to feed them, but he was far too weak. Brenden's wish could have ended right there, with good intentions but no action. After all, many of us have good ideas and intentions but they never see fruition.

That was not to be the case with Brenden Foster's last wish. People heard about his selfless wish, and they came to his aid--and to the aid of the homeless he had seen. Organizations provided food and other needed items to those he had seen that fateful day. But it didn't stop there. As people all over the country heard about Brenden on CNN and other media, they set out to help the homeless in their area in his name. This little boy, who could have lived unknown outside his community, had influenced an entire country.

In an interview shortly before his death, a reporter asked Brenden what made him sad. One might expect someone in Brenden's shoes to say dying. But, those who had followed Brenden's story knew that wasn't "him." So what made Brenden sad? People who give up. He encouraged people, saying, "Follow your dreams. Don't let anything stop you."

Incidentally, Brenden's desire to help extended beyond people. He was concerned about the declining bee population. He wanted everyone to plant flowers.

This Thanksgiving and holiday season will be an extremely difficult one for many. It seems as though you can't turn on the television without hearing about more business closings and layoffs. People who never before worried about whether they'd have a job no longer have that luxury. With such problems looming like the sword of Damocles for many of us, it can be understandably difficult to think of others at this time. As we struggle to put out a Thanksgiving dinner filled with mountains of food, how can we think of those whose every meal is in doubt?

How? Think of Brenden. He was dying, yet he didn't wallow in self-pity. He thought of others. Helping others doesn't necessarily mean starting an organization to feed the homeless and those in need across the country--even the world. Start small. Figuratively set another place at your Thanksgiving dinner. Take the money you would have spent on that serving and donate it to an organization that helps feed those in need. Don't worry if it seems small to you. Organizations such as Feeding America is happy to accept contributions of all amounts. You will make a difference.

And knitters, can you do without a skein of yarn to help those who have to do without food? I think you can. Take that money and donate it to help the hungry. Do you have stash that you don't think you'll use? Most of us do. There are different ways you can use it to help people in need. Sell it and donate the money. Donate the yarn to a shelter, where people can use it to create something positive. Knit a hat, mittens, scarf, or afghan and donate it to a shelter or organization that helps those in need.

All of us can be like Brenden Foster. In a world bereft of true, admirable role models, he and his actions will always stand tall.