“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
— The New Colossus

Wait — just kidding!

What used to be the welcome into a life of promise is now far from the truth. Fear of terrorism is closing our country’s doors, and now fear of poverty is closing Oklahoma City’s medians. I am sure you’ve heard the news, already discussed on NonDoc:

Oklahoma City councilors passed a controversial median ordinance 7-2 Tuesday.

In short, the rule will prohibit almost anyone from occupying OKC medians, something opposition leaders viewed as a direct attack on panhandlers.

My Twitter has blown up with people discussing the impact this may have on Curbside Chronicle vendors. I am a big fan of that media group and organizations like it which give the homeless and poor a chance to improve their situations. I’ve learned personally that hard work sometimes isn’t enough. Sometimes people need opportunity, an open border or the kindness of a stranger.

I remember the first time I gave to charity. I slapped $2 into the Ronald McDonald House box after my mom explained its cause. Although I have given her a hard time on this site before, my mom taught me to embrace generosity, even when you don’t have much to give. It was a wonderful feeling to know that my little bit of money could help a child in greater need than me.

The next time was not so great. After being approached by a man that said he was out of gas and needed help, I gave all that I had, only to see him scoot across the street to a local bar. I was crushed. But my mother explained that giving is still important, even if someone breaks your trust. Once you give to people, what they do from there is not your business.

My next memory is my favorite one. During a particularly meager Christmas, my family had very little to give. As many do, we put together treat bags of baked goods and candy that we made for family and friends. We were so proud of them. But before we could deliver the goodies, we came across a family staying in their car. This was not a common occurrence in our small town of 13,000, and it was heart wrenching. My mom had us give all of the bags to the family. I still cry thinking about their gratefulness.

I have also been in need, and I’ve been blessed by others’ kindness. When there were no presents under the tree, a family friend showed up with gifts and lots of love. When there wasn’t heat in the majority of the house, we always seemed to make it. And in my college days, there were times when $20 from a friend got me through when I had nothing left.

Have you been there? Are you there now? Hopefully not. And if you’re not, do you have anything to spare? You don’t even need money to give of your time, because a little kindness lights a fire that burns far brighter and longer than a dollar bill. However, a fistful of cash doesn’t hurt!

On Giving Tuesday, I spent $37 dollars on Christmas donations. That very insignificant amount bought: one mosquito net for the Project Hope orphanage in Uganda to help keep the kids safe from malaria ($10); one gift for a house mom at that same orphanage who gives of herself night and day ($12); showers, two meals, warmth and other services at the Homeless Alliance Day Shelter in Oklahoma City ($15); and a new commitment to a local organization that helps turn our youth to leaders ($0).

Normally, I wouldn’t share this kind of information — because it’s tacky — but today I want to make a point.

If just 1 percent of the Oklahoma City population gave a meager $37 dollars to help this season, that would contribute $229,622 to our local charities. Can you imagine the impact? But sadly, after Giving Tuesday, I didn’t see any big news stories about charitable donations breaking records the way I was barraged with the Black Friday news — except the Zuckerbergs’, of course.

Fortunately, I did see something quite special: a Twitter feed full of generous, loving Oklahomans who are doing their part and trying to get you to jump in as well. So let’s do it. Head first. Jump out of the cycle of commercial obsession overtaking the spirit of the holiday, and jump into a world where we care a lot more about hungry people than the “it” toy. It’s not socialism — it’s being a decent freaking human being.

I challenge Oklahoma City to stop banning an uncomfortable reality in the name of safety. Rather than look the other way from poverty — let’s try harder to fix it. Have you ever bought a Curbside Chronicle? Talked to a panhandler? Provided a meal? Attending a charity ball or dinner does not a philanthropist make. Open your wallet, look someone in the eye, and ask what they need. Let’s get back to the way we started this country and practice what we preach — the Oklahoma standard.