.FOOD FOR THOUGHT Feeding those less fortunate than ourselves is an issue for our times

Into each life a little unbelievableness must fall. Here’s my story.

Donating to charities has always been important to me. Actually, just giving to those less fortunate than myself has. I’m not saying I’ve given a lot, but I have at times donated to different people and nonprofits.

When I was a kid I began handing out money to the homeless. My attitude toward that changed one day in Santa Cruz when I realized that the money I handed to a homeless man would almost certainly be used for drugs or alcohol. After that I donated directly to soup kitchens for many years, believing it was a more constructive way to mete out assistance.

I also sponsored a child for several years in my teens and 20s. For a few bucks a month I helped a kid get food and clothes. I hope that really happened. That particular program used to advertise in Time magazine, but I haven’t heard hide nor hair of it in decades.

I’m a pretty basic guy, and my primary interest has always been to provide people with food. Let people with more money give more elaborate necessities, I say.

But all of this is merely a prelude to what this Press Pass is really about.

I worked for a software company in Alameda for 11 years, and its corporate policy dictated that each year each employee receive a “tithing” allotment of X dollars to donate to up to 3 different nonprofits of said employee’s choice. If the money was not used, it did not accrue. The amount began at $1,000 per employee per year and grew to $1,500 by the time I left. I found significant satisfaction donating to charities that directly helped the poor eat, whether by giving Africans solar cookers or by feeding Oakland’s urban homeless.

But here’s the kicker: When the company sold, after my 11th year there, the owner/CEO insisted that the tithing continue, forevermore, for every individual who had ever worked for the company.

You read that right.

And so it goes. It’s been 6 years since I quit, and I still tithe every year. Hell, we all do.

I don’t make much money these days, and I have little to give directly except for occasional chocolate bars and fleece throws I sometimes hand out to the destitute. But it’s all good.

Giving always felt good. It still does.

Mark Fernquest lives and writes in West County. When he isn’t sticking the pen to the paper, he’s Mad Maxing it up in the Painted Desert.
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