Day 67

Today I walked up and down Fifth Avenue in NYC — in and out of Henry Bendel’s, up and down the stairs to the top floors of Tiffany’s and back down to Rockefeller Center. The streets were jammed. Driving through the Lincoln Tunnel this morning a woman’s voice kept breaking into my classic rock radio station to announce a holiday shoppers’ gridlock alert.

She wasn’t kidding! There should have been a pedestrian gridlock alert, too. The foot traffic in front of  Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was ankle-to-ankle deep, and the visitors with their cell phones and cameras snapping pictures created obstacles for strollers, business people, and sports walkers alike.

The most crowded shopping spots on the street by far were the sidewalk vendors selling $10 cashmere pashmina scarves. The closest competition? The $5 pashmina man.

And then there were the dozens of Salvation Army men and women in red, standing next to their buckets and ringing their bells. They were right beside the people with modest glass jars set on makeshift tables, who were asking shoppers to help the homeless.

“A penny, a nickel, a dime — that’s all it takes to make a difference,” one advocate bleated into the madding crowd. I didn’t see anyone stop. But I’m sure those of us with nice homes, fabulous clothes, not to mention jobs, kitchens, food, and a place to sleep at night will be thinking of those less fortunate this year for the holidays. Not to mention those for whom walking isn’t exactly a sport or a pastime or even an elective, but a necessity…shoes optional, of course, just in case you don’t have shoes.

Which brings me to this fantastic site I came across recently. It’s called Build a Nest, and it’s a chance for those of us who have so much to give gifts that support women artisans in developing nations. My favorite are the microloans – tiny amounts of money that women use to grow businesses that support themselves, their families, and sometimes enrich their entire villages.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be out walking on Fifth Avenue — and shopping — for fun this time of year. I’m justing saying that I’ve been thinking about what I really want for the holidays this year, and it’s a little more gratitude, compassion, and caring in my own corner of the world.  Like right in my own heart.