This is Peter Larson. I love this kid. I’ve never met him, but he makes the local news this time every year when he sleeps outside in a cardboard box for 49 nights (ending December 31) to raise money for The Sleep Out, which is a Twin Cities fundraiser to help homeless people in our area. This 2007 photo ran with a story in the Star Tribune (11/16). Okay, so you may have heard about our balmy fall this year, but this is still Minnesota, and we’re dipping below freezing at night now, and meteorological winter has just begun. Peter uses the sleeping bag his grandmother made 39 years ago (what’s not to love?) and this will be his 12th year. He’s raised almost $400,000, and he hope to add another $100,000 this 12th and final time. He’s a high school senior. Did I mention he started doing this when he was 6? A supporter of the fundraiser talked it up to Peter’s Cub Scout pack, and when the boy found out that $575 could keep a family in their home for a month, he said, “I can do that.”
Last month I helped drive my granddaughter’s Girl Scouts to the local food shelf for a tour. Next week the group will pack and decorate holiday care packages that will be shipped to our troops in the Middle East. Times are tougher than usual for most Americans this year, but the Grinch will not steal Christmas if people like Peter have anything to say about it.
The needs are great. My phone rings once or twice a day with solicitation calls for worthy causes that I’ve supported at one time or another. I don’t give over the phone, but I’ll pick a couple and ask them to send me the mailer. Not only is it important to me to do what I can, but I want the grandchildren to be involved. We never pass up a Salvation Army kettle. We keep a cache of quarters in the car. Inside the grocery store, we add a few things or maybe the pre-packed bag to the cart and drop it in the food shelf bin. (Just heard that peanut butter is a high demand item this year.) The girls help box up giveaway stuff when we switch seasons in the closets, too.
Every Christmas Eve my daughter and son-in-law organize a family blood drive. We’ve done this for years, and it’s always topped off with a brunch at someone’s house. The kids get to watch from a distance—don’t want them tripping over blood-letting equipment—and it’s a healthy experience. Well, one time Nana caused a little stir when she got up too soon, but they learned from that, too.
Among the Lakota, generosity is paramount. Giving is part of every ceremony and celebration, and sacrifice for the good of the community is an honor. The spirit of giving is alive and well in Indian country even in lean times. It’s a beautiful thing.
Let’s talk about giving. ‘Tis the season.