Microsoft's usual low-key Christmas charity drive (that is, this is the low-key one, as opposed to the high-pressure Give campaign of last month) is a lot more depressing this year.
Every building has one of those little Christmas trees. The paper "ornaments" are actually notes, filled out by people living in poverty receiving aid from one of the charitable organizations involved in the program. The idea is that employees can take them, buy whatever is requested, and leave it (with the relevant tag) under the tree, where it will be sent back to the charity to get to the person who requested it. The other years I've been here, it's desperately poor people asking for small luxuries- things that aren't an especially big deal to your average overpaid software engineer, but are to someone living on a fixed income or just plain not enough income. A few books, board games, toys, the occasional music CD or video game, small consumer electronics- normal stuff, the luxuries that charities don't generally cover and aren't "okay" to ask for pretty much any other time of the year. Usually, the sweeping majority of the requests are from children.
This year, at least 1/3 of them come from people of retirement age, many of whom have suddenly had family move in with them because said family was foreclosed upon. And fully half the tree- including pretty much all the seniors- is asking for food. It's covered with requests for $30-$40 gift cards to QFC, Safeway, TOP, or Fred Meyer. Although there are fewer of them, now, as the requests are getting taken down and tied to $50-$100 gift cards left under the tree, except the charity keeps bringing more to replace them.
This economy sucks.