There’s a lot you could do for oth­ers over the hol­i­days

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - Dan Ro­dricks

There’s a lot you could do. You could wheel your grill out to the side­walk, or the end of the drive­way, and grill sausage for your neigh­bors. You could roast chest­nuts, too, and of­fer them to any­one who walks by.

If you have a waf­fle press and an ex­ten­sion cord, you could set up a ta­ble in front of your house and make waffles for neigh­bors or strolling strangers. Even run­ners will stop for a warm waf­fle.

You could of­fer hot cider by the cup from a slow cooker.

You could bake a lasagna or make a pot of mine­strone (look up the Mar­cella Hazan recipe) and bring it to some­one who lives alone.

You could cook a pile of blue­berry pan­cakes and de­liver them on a week­end morn­ing to the lit­tle kids who live next door.

You could make a squadron of pa­per air­planes for them, too.

There’s a lot you could do.

You could open your house for board games — Mo­nop­oly, Clue, Strat­ego, Scrab­ble — and set them up on dif­fer­ent ta­bles, and in­vite your friends and neigh­bors to drop by and play a round. You’ll all won­der why you don’t do it more of­ten.

You could in­vite a bunch of peo­ple over for a movie night: A slice of pizza and con­ver­sa­tion, fol­lowed by an 8 o’clock show­ing of “Na­tional Lam­poon’s Christ­mas Va­ca­tion” or Bill Mur­ray’s “Scrooged.” You could buy big bags of Martin’s pop­corn and di­vide it among guests.

You could grab a cou­ple of glasses, a six-pack of beer or a bot­tle of wine or a jug of cider, and knock on your neigh­bor’s door. Your neigh­bor might seem mildly shocked but will quickly see that you mean busi­ness. So you’ll ei­ther end up at the kitchen ta­ble for an hour or in the front hall­way for a few min­utes. Ei­ther way, you’ll share a toast to the hol­i­days and the com­ing year.

You could write sweet notes to dis­agree­able, al­most-for­mer friends on Face­book. Or you could just un­friend them and hold them in mem­ory the way they were be­fore they be­came in­tol­er­a­ble.

Another foodie thing: You could cook up a gi­ant pot of spaghetti sauce, the kind that sim­mers for a day. Af­ter it cools, di­vide it into six or seven ma­son jars and give them out to neigh­bors.

If your kids are now adults, but you still have most of their chil­dren’s books, gather those you’re will­ing to part with, line them up on the kitchen ta­ble and in­vite six kids to come by at noon to pick out a book to take home. Cook­ies op­tional.

You could carry a big bag of or­anges onto an MTA bus and hand them out to fel­low trav­el­ers with some hol­i­day cheer.

In­stead of buy­ing Christ­mas cards and just sign­ing your name, you could buy some blank sta­tionery, or just get some good pa­per, and block out quiet time to sit at a ta­ble and write letters to 10 peo­ple you care about.

Hand-writ­ten notes of en­cour­age­ment, thanks or praise reach peo­ple in a pro­found way, and more than ever in the age of text mes­sag­ing and email.

You could look up a school teacher or col­lege pro­fes­sor or boss you liked, or some­one you’ve come to ap­pre­ci­ate af­ter a lot of time and dis­tance, and put them in the queue for a let­ter of grat­i­tude.

Every­one knows some­one who needs a ride some­where — peo­ple who don’t drive or don’t own a car. Pro­duce some gift cer­tifi­cates, each good for one free ride within, say, 50 miles of home, and give them to the peo­ple you know who are trans­porta­tion-chal­lenged. En­cour­age them to take you up on the of­fer, too. There’s a lot you could do.

You could make some good sand­wiches and spend a cou­ple of hours driv­ing around to in­ter­sec­tions where you’ve seen pan­han­dlers, hand­ing each of them some­thing to eat.

Or you could park nearby, walk to the cor­ner and mo­tion to the pan­han­dler that you’d like to have a con­ver­sa­tion. In­tro­duce your­self, hand the per­son a sand­wich and say you’d like to know what they need be­sides money. Ask how you can help. Back off and walk away if the per­son is not in­ter­ested in a con­ver­sa­tion. But you’ll be sur­prised how ea­ger some pan­han­dlers are to talk. They are used to en­gag­ing strangers.

There’s a lot you could do.

Think of three peo­ple who might be alone dur­ing the hol­i­days. You could call each of them and in­vite them over for din­ner or out for a drink. If they’re busy — not as left-out as you sus­pected — then it’s all good.

You could choose a poem or a brief pas­sage from a novel, knock on your neigh­bor’s door and of­fer to read or re­cite it. The Billy Collins poem about a Christ­mas Day spar­row would be good, or the Mary Oliver piece called, “This Morn­ing.” And you can’t go wrong with read­ing from Charles Dick­ens’ “A Christ­mas Carol.” The penul­ti­mate para­graph tells of Scrooge be­com­ing “as good a friend, as good a mas­ter, and as good a man as the good old city knew.” Some peo­ple laughed to see the sur­pris­ing change in Scrooge, but he didn’t care. “His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.”

Correction: In Friday’s col­umn, I re­ferred to Light Street and Madi­son Street, a Bal­ti­more in­ter­sec­tion that does not ex­ist. I meant St. Paul Street and Madi­son, and I re­gret the er­ror.

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

There’s a lot we can do: Neigh­bors With­out Walls vol­un­teers meet at Terra Cafe to pack lunches to de­liver to Bal­ti­more’s home­less.

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