COLUMN: Good use for a spare $25

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I very seldom buy scratch-off lottery tickets but grabbed three the other day. I won $25, not a bad return for $3. I visited Churchill Downs a couple of weekends ago and dropped more than that on some races. Luckily, I ended the day only a small loser.

I stared at the bills and wondered what I’d do with the money. Like a lot of people my age and younger, I don’t carry much cash. I use a debit card to buy groceries and gas. My paycheck is direct deposited and most bills are paid online.

Instead of tucking the bills into my wallet for a future purchase, I decided to use the money to buy a ham for someone I knew could use it for Thanksgiving Day dinner. I hoped it made their holiday a little nicer.

I started thinking about what $25 might do for someone. Now that sum of money is nothing to sneeze at but a lot of us can afford to give $25 to someone in the coming weeks. Packing my lunch just two or three times would save me that amount of money. What can $25 do? Plenty, both in substance and in symbolism.

A $25 gift will put a few extra groceries on the table during the holiday season, or anytime of the year for that matter.

As I mentioned in another column a few weeks back, a small cash contribution to a pastor or church will help them distribute that money to those in need. I know church offices and pastors often receive requests in person from people who need money for food, gas or to help pay a utility bill. Not many of us find ourselves in those straits, but it happens.

A little cash will purchase a gift for a child who might not have something to open Christmas morning. A $25 gift would help someone pay an electric or gas bill. We all know of people who have trouble paying larger bills that come during the winter-heating season.

I usually give my nephews and nieces gifts of cash or gift certificates. I know they appreciate the gesture but I wonder if they would be just as happy with a hearty “Merry Christmas” and the knowledge that their gift went to a family in real need.

I know people sometimes say that those who find themselves on the verge of homelessness or down to their last dollar have problems with drugs or make bad personal decisions. I don’t dispute that but there are situations when people are out in the cold through no real fault of their own. I’m also one to say that communities should reach out to people in trouble regardless of whether it’s their own doing or not.

I’m sure my siblings’ kids will protest when I suggest I’m taking their Christmas cash and giving it to the poor. But we may give it a try. It might be the nicest gift I could give them.