Purpose. Care. Give. Pick. Click. Give. allows Alaskans to pay it forward

It’s the season for Pick.Click.Give., the concept that we pay it forward and give to nonprofits of choice. This act satisfies the human need to give out of one’s abundance and also supports the saying, “It’s easier to give than to receive.” It also allows nonprofits to plan next year’s budget.

That said, I suggest we consider this idea. We give because we care, and we care because a purpose fuels why we care. Allow me a personal story.

The first year we arrived in Alaska, 1969, I taught at what was then called Kenai Junior High, located in downtown Kenai across from what was then the new Carr’s grocery and is now a charter school. The first day of teacher in-service, a group of seasoned women teachers invited me to lunch. 

Like so many people who came to Alaska thinking there was money enough for the first few months, my husband, Peter, and I found ourselves without any spare cash once we paid the deposit, first and last months of rent and purchased any items to set up house. Newly married and having driven into the Swanson River forest fire that nearly engulfed Kenai that August, it was sort of baptism by fire, pun intended. I had no money for lunch.  The waitress took orders, and I ordered water saying I wasn’t hungry. In the course of the conversation, one of the social studies teachers named Diane asked me if we found housing, and I told her the location of our apartment and that we were settled.  

I arrived home after a day of surprises. I had no classroom and would roam from room to room when other teachers had a prep hour because new students arrived everyday and every classroom had to be used every hour. The homeroom teacher had to leave his/her classroom to prepare lessons in the teacher’s lounge. I taught science and would have to push supplies from room to room on a cart with student help. My “office” was a converted janitor closet. Every school was a mad house during the Swanson River oil discovery and Kenai was booming.

Tired and exhausted, I walked into the kitchen to prepare a simple meal of macaroni and cheese and raw carrots for dinner, knowing we had to plan each meal carefully to make it to the end of the month. Before leaving that morning, I had propped open the kitchen window sink just a little to allow fresh air in.

In the sink lay a 50-dollar bill and my eyes popped out of my head. I called Peter to come and see our good fortune, tempted to head to the store and buy real food.  We decided that it would be smarter to report it to the landlord because as lucky as we felt, it wasn’t ours and meant for someone else. We took it to the office and were told to come back in a week and if it wasn’t claimed, the money was ours. It was ours after we checked back a week later and we celebrated in quieted glee!

Several days later, Diane and I were in the teacher’s lounge and she inquired, “Did you find money in your sink?” Once I composed myself, I asked her why she gave us $50 and she replied that everyone who comes to Alaska thinks they have enough money and plan accordingly only to find themselves short on cash. 

I thanked her profusely and said, “Diane, I promise to pay you at the end of the month.” She held up her hand and replied, “No you won’t. You will never pay me back.  The only way you will pay me back is if you do this for someone else.  Promise to do that and you will more than pay me back.” 

That incident changed my life and informed how we lived from that day forward. Diane gave because she cared. Diane cared because someone had done this for her and it became her purpose to pass the good deed on.

When you Pick.Click.Give. for 2014, what is your purpose for caring and what do you care about that results in giving?

Peter recently died of cancer and in that process, this community and people near and far showered us with food, money, gifts, flowers, kind words written on CaringBridge and in cards, visits in person and phone, email and snail mail. It has been a tsunami of love. Thank you seems flimsy, but thank you, thank you for overwhelming caring and giving.

Peter enjoyed giving and secretly wanted to be a philanthropist. He was with his time and good nature, his organizational skills and leadership. He was a giver and enjoyed working toward a goal with others, in community, a collective energy whose vision became larger than participants even imagined once everyone became involved.

I think this is how Homer Foundation got started and now is larger than anyone ever believed it could be, would be. Yet it is alive and well through hard economic times because people pay it forward and believe in giving back to this community. Recipients of all ages benefit from grants, positive energy multiplies and goodness grows contagiously, maybe exponentially if it could be quantified.

Pick.Click.Give. grows each year and why should it not? We all get $50, so to speak, dropped in our sink every October if we are a resident of Alaska. What a great way to grow communities. What a great way to give back.

Flo Larson is a board member of The Homer Foundation.