Gaylord Guenin: Letter from Woody Creek
Aspen Times Weekly
While most of you were busy ripping open your Christmas presents, the Lenado Olympic Committee (LOC) was putting together a petition asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to establish shoe-throwing as an official Olympic sport.
“Why not?” asked the LOC chairman, who requested that his name not be used for fear of retaliation from the extreme right. “When that Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at George W., our soon-to-be former compassionate-warrior president, the international coverage was staggering. There is no Olympic event that has ever attracted such attention.”
The LOC chair admitted that in order to continue to attract such attention in the future, the target would have to continue to be George W., who may not be all that inclined to participate. “But all ex-presidents struggle to deal with retirement,” the LOC chair said, “and this might be a perfect venue for George W. There is great prestige connected with the Olympics and this would give W. a direct, if rather superficial, connection with this international event. And as we discovered, W. turned out to be rather superficial himself, so this should be a perfect fit.
In order to stimulate national interest in the event, the LOC suggested that the U.S. team be made up of some of the surviving members of Hurricane Katrina. “Those folks certainly have a justifiable grievance against W.,” the LOC chair claimed, “so we should be able to put together an extremely strong and dedicated team. One that I believe could stand up against the best Iraq has to offer.”
Considering all the bleak news we have had to face recently, I didn’t feel too guilty focusing in on the LOC’s petition attempt. It has reached the point where it is depression piled upon depression each time we turn on the television news in the morning or attempt to enjoy a cup of coffee with a local rag. Then in early December there was a story in the Aspen Daily News that actually cheered me up. It was a report compiled by a local reporter regarding the fact that Aspen residents are leaders in our state when it comes to giving to nonprofit organizations.
According to the story, the average donor in Aspen gave $17,400 to charity in 2006 and Pitkin County residents gave more than twice as much on average as the state’s second most generous county. The average here was $15,630, which compares with the $7,239 donated by residents in Prowers County. Now any cynic worthy of his skepticism would quickly point out that our valley is overrun with individuals who enjoy deep if not bottomless pockets and it is obvious that we should lead the state in giving. Be that as it is, it was still encouraging news to read that we are givers.
The story was based on the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s State of Giving 2008 report and it cited Woody Creek, Snowmass, Snowmass Village, Vail and Eagle “as having particularly high average contributions.” It was nice to see Woody Creek among those who had “high average contributions,” even if it meant a weird association with Vail.
The information contained in the nonprofit association’s report was based on philanthropy recorded in tax returns for 2006. It will be interesting to see what the report shows for the year 2008, with all of its economic woes.
But this report is all about giving money and being generous, and it is not limited to financial contributions to this or that organization. If you have the funds, you should be encouraged to help others, but you can give without reaching into your wallet, assuming you still have a wallet in our current economy.
The most obvious way to express your generosity is to do volunteer work. Just about every organization depends on volunteers to accomplish their mission. And this doesn’t mean you must pack your bags and head off to Africa or India to build schools or hospitals, although that would be a most generous gesture if you were to do it. This valley contains a wealth of volunteer opportunities, ranging from extreme events, such as the World Cup races, to something as modest as lending a hand at the local thrift shop.
You can be generous just by being civil to others, by doing simple, little things that are appreciated by others. Hell, holding a door open for a stranger is, in itself, an act of generosity.
A friend of mine and myself were talking about the economy and how it has put a squeeze on giving to our favorite charitable organizations and he made a point I must confess I hadn’t thought about: “You want to give something but you are short of money right now? Why not give blood? That is a real contribution to society,” he said.
He is correct, of course. Giving blood is an honorable act and it is one that might save a life. That is not too shabby an item to attach to your resume. And if I recall correctly, you get a free glass of orange juice after your donation. This is a great world.
Giving makes others feel good and it will make you feel good. And I most certainly feel good knowing I live where my neighbors are not only generous, they are leaders in that field.
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Data — even for those who love to crunch the numbers — is only one part of the teacher retention story at Aspen School District.