Socks and Sustenance: The Why Of It

Every January, the Social Service Society collects socks to hand out at the End-of-the-month Lunch, which now serves some 240 men and women nine months of the year. January is the toughest one, coming after Christmas, which, while tough enough for many folks, also sees the distribution of some extra goodies and early payment of some forms of public assistance. Inevitably, these contrast with the seasonal cold and dark and render January bleaker—longer and poorer as well as damper and chillier. So at the end of January, we give a new pair of warm socks to each dinner guest, along with the usual nourishing and warm sit-down meal.

When I studied a little Hebrew, the first two words our teacher taught us were the two words for WHY: Ma-duah, meaning “proceeding from what?,” and La-ma “towards what?” Why were we here, he asked. Please answer to both meanings! Suddenly, the question took on so many dimensions. So does the whole question of giving.

Why socks? I might buy a pair of socks and bring them because I’m grateful to have warm feet, myself. To share that comfort. To touch the life of someone I don’t often relate to, don’t know how to help in other ways. To continue an annual tradition, one that I feel good about and have become attached to. To start the new year with a gesture of open heartedness.

The pair I bring—women’s socks this year—will, God willing, seem insignificant on the wide table overflowing with donations. I like this effect—feeling part of something bigger than myself, and joining with others whose motives might be entirely different than mine.

I join with others, too, in supporting the work of the Cathedral parish. Our Treasurer, Jane Aitkens, and the Corporation are asking us all to make pledges—predictions—for our support of the Cathedral in 2017. The request is seasonal, as the Budget is being prepared right now for approval towards the end of February.

Again, the WHY looks both back and ahead. It would be too great a presumption if I spoke about YOU and why you might decide to respond, so I’ll talk about my own experience.

I’ve been shaped in really important ways by the life of the church in this place, and supported during times of change and stress. I’ve weathered times when the parish itself and its leadership changed, too. Seen families and individuals heading far away, and greeted new members. I feel blessed to have been part of this place for so long, and I want to extend that blessing to others in turn.

Most important, I think, is that I give because “I get it” about the church. So many people in today’s world don’t, and I think they are the poorer for missing that particular source of joy and meaning. So I am happy to pledge… and happy that Jane knows what to expect from me this year. I give through PAR, which means the money comes out of my bank account mid-month automatically and I can use my memory for other stuff. I know that if my budget hits a speed bump I can change my arrangements. I know that nobody except Jane and the bookkeeper have any idea what I give.

I happy to give in hope that the Cathedral—with its openness and inclusivity, its music, its preaching and social outreach—will be there for me no matter what, and I’m happy to extend this hospitality and make sure the Cathedral will be open, friendly, and spiritually nourishing for tourists and visitors, children and their families, newcomers and those who need a warm place to sit or an ear to hear them. I’m happy that what I have found here will be available to so many others.

And I give because giving gives me this joy. I invite you to discover your own WHY and, I hope, the sources of your personal joy connected with this place.