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Give Differently, and Conquer the January Blues

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When it comes to giving, why box ourselves to a certain way of thinking? Six Pack, art print by Braldt Bralds

After the hustle and bustle and giving of the holidays, January can seem like a bleak month.

The presents are all unwrapped, some already exchanged. New Year’s Resolutions have been dutifully made with subsequent feelings of failure to come. April 15 is closer than it was last month, and the credit card bills will soon arrive.

Yep. It’s bleak.

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Every season, every month, has its moment of beauty and goodness — even January. Sleigh Ride at Apple Creek, fine art edition print by William Phillips

But it doesn’t have to be. The same feelings of joy that stem from giving and that we experienced short weeks ago, don’t have to end because the holiday hype has. And money isn’t a factor: we can give five incredible gifts year round without having to spend a cent. As an added bonus, these gifts don’t even require time. Just effort.

And because gifts are never obligatory, we don’t HAVE to do these five acts of grace. In the spirit of experimentation, however, it’s worth considering giving them a try. So . . . let’s brighten up January (and February, and beyond) by giving five things we can’t tuck inside a box:

Graceful Giving

1) Give the benefit of the doubt. We all know someone who’s chronically late, or never pays their portion of the bill, or makes promises they don’t keep. And they are irritating. But the next time irritating happens, instead of thinking,  “They did it again! I’m so TIRED of them,” we have the option to gently muse, “Hmm. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about. Maybe there are hidden circumstances in their life or their background (of course there are!) that are a factor in why they do this.”

indian stories storyteller listening gift grandpa family morgan weistling

Listening is a skill that is a valuable as speaking. Indian Stories, fine art edition print by Morgan Weistling

Obviously, we don’t want to be walked over (in our society, that’s as bad as looking uncool), but we also don’t want to box people in. It’s always worth remembering that, if we have nine pieces of information out of 10 (and we usually don’t have that many), we’re missing the whole story.

2) Give it a miss. The next time we’re in a conversation, and we think up something incredibly witty that plays upon what someone just said, let’s skip saying it. Just this once, we can opt to not to be funny or amusing or witty. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being funny or amusing or witty, but — more times than we like to think — humor is at the expense of someone else. It’s not that we’ll never ever ever in our whole life make a joke again. Just this one time.

Listening Is a Gift

3) Give an ear. Genuinely listening to another person is incredibly difficult. We frequently want to add our own thoughts, give advice, or persuade them to our way of thinking. The first element is part of making conversation, the second is worth providing only when asked for, the third can easily be dispensed with. Cultivating the ability to listen is a skill that requires daily practice.

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Our heart speaks all the time, but if we don’t take time to listen, we won’t hear. To Search Within, fine art edition print by Steve Hanks.

4) Pass it on. (Yes, this is a deliberate decision to not start the sentence with “Give.” Why be predictable all the time?) All of us have items in our home that we have received good use from, but no longer need. It’s tempting to think, “This is in great shape: I could sell it for half the new price and make a little fun money.” Who can’t use a little more fun money? But then again, there are people who could really use the item we no longer need, but don’t have the money — fun or not — to buy it. Try this: ask God (or, if you’re not on speaking terms with Him, the general universe), “Do you know anyone who could use this?” and see what happens.

When We Give, We Receive Beauty

5) Give it a try. We are well trained to put ourselves, and our efforts, down. Our feet are too big, our dreams outlandish, our finances meager, our skills insufficient, our personality the wrong type, to make a difference. Bosh. If you’re used to analyzing your way through everything, ensuring that it is sensible, scientific, reasonable, or profitable enough to work, let your heart speak over your brain now and then and see what it says.

Yes, one small act of kindness makes a difference: one smile, one word of encouragement, one can of soup to the food bank, one biting back a retort, one package of toilet paper to the homeless shelter, one dollar, one letter, one hour, one idea.

The best thing about any one of these five gifts of grace is that, not only do they make a difference in the world around us, the make a change in us ourselves. And that’s a gift worth treasuring.

Wenaha GalleryThe Annual Canned Food Drive is the Art Event through January 31, 2020 at Wenaha Gallery. For every canned food item brought into the gallery through January 31, the giver receives $2 off their next custom framing order, up to 20% off total. All proceeds benefit the Dayton Community Food Bank.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

Giving Gifts — Tis the Season, All Year Round — Dayton’s Project Timothy

Project Timothy is located within the St Vincent de Paul building in Dayton, WA

Project Timothy is located within the St Vincent de Paul building in Dayton, WA

Christmas is the season for giving.

It sounds like a Facebook meme, or the inside of a holiday card, and like most pithy sayings, merely brushes the surface of truth.

In reality, people in need — who truly appreciate a timely gift, given — are around all year. Thankfully for those struggling in Columbia County and Waitsburg, there is Project Timothy, an ecumenical ministry spearheaded by the St Joseph (Dayton) and St Mark (Waitsburg) Catholic parishes, but joined by a number of other churches in the area. It provides emergency housing, rental assistance, help with utilities, food vouchers, bus passes, and more for the nearly 700 families that seek its aid every year.

Project Timothy looks to Christ's example as the one to follow. Jesus and the Little Children by Vogel von Volgelstein

Project Timothy looks to Christ’s example as the one to follow. Jesus and the Little Children by Vogel von Volgelstein

“Project Timothy is unique to Dayton,” says Terri Schlachter, president of the 13-member board of the organization. Opening its doors in 1990,. Project Timothy grew out of the energy and vision of Father Paul Wood, who came to the area from the Brooklyn, New York, Diocese, and was struck by the need to collate the benevolent efforts of the Christian community into one place.

“It’s always been meant to be an ecumenical ministry,” Schlachter says. “It’s not just the Catholic Church; it’s the entire community helping.”

Working in cooperation with religious, private, and public agencies, Project Timothy runs from a designated office space in the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store on Main Street. Volunteers staff the office from noon to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and off hours, clients can reach an on-call volunteer by going through the Sheriff’s Department.

Operating with funds donated by individuals, private groups, Catholic Charities of Spokane, and grants, Project Timothy strives to be a physical interpretation of the apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, a young Greek Christian who eventually became a bishop of Ephesus in the first century, A.D.:

“Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18)

We are called to look out for the most vulnerable in society. Suffer the Little Children by Fritz von Uhde

We are called to look out for the most vulnerable in society. Suffer the Little Children by Fritz von Uhde

“Project Timothy works very hard to be good stewards of the money entrusted to us by our donors and grants to help those in need,” Schlachter says. There’s only so much to go around, the need is great, and it is a delicate balance ensuring that the funds go where they are most and truly needed, while every person who enters the office leaves with their dignity intact.

Volunteers, who undergo 20 hours of training in interviewing clients and familiarizing themselves with the bylaws of the organization, must be discerning and kind, wise and compassionate, able to make intelligent judgments without being judgmental. On the wall is a list of phone numbers of various agencies, resources, and organizations in the area, and before any client leaves, volunteers review additional options available for assistance and referral.

Putting into practice the things we read is a focal point of Project Timothy. Seaside Story by Wenaha Gallery artist Steve Henderson

Putting into practice the things we read, and meeting the needs of the vulnerable, are focal points of Project Timothy. Seaside Story by Wenaha Gallery artist Steve Henderson

As with most giving organizations, Project Timothy finds itself most in demand in the winter months, when higher heating and electrical bills command more of a family’s budget. December’s activities center around Christmas baskets, some 85 boxes which include foods for a holiday dinner such as a ham, vegetables, potatoes, pie, rolls, and canned foods.

“If we have enough donations, we will include Dayton Dollars so families can buy a little something for their children for Christmas,” Schlachter says, adding that vouchers provided for food, clothing, and other essentials stay in the area, benefiting local businesses.

On the opposite side of the calendar, the month of June finds the organization with a request to fund a very specific purpose:

“We have had donations in the summer with the specific request that they go to swim passes.

“This has been a great asset for families as the price for swim passes has gone up. It (swimming) is a great activity for children, but expensive for some families.”

It quickly becomes obvious that Christmas is not the only time of the year for gifts, and quite fortunately, Schlachter observes, the people in the area are conversant with this. The gift of giving runs both ways.

“It is very clearly the Lord’s work, for after 25 years, Project Timothy is still going, even though there have been some real economic down turns in the American Economy.

“Dayton has some very kindhearted people.

“To help someone you know is really in need, it feels great.”

Wenaha GalleryLocated one block away from the Project Timothy office, Wenaha Gallery devotes every January to a food drive supporting the community food bank, one of the organizations to which Project Timothy refers. Each year, people from within and without the community donate hundreds of pounds of food to the effort.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.