Essay By Peggy Collins

A simple cup of coffee can make a difference.

The concept is not new. I remember watching the television commercial growing up. Images of starving children in Africa glossed across the screen. There was a 1-800 number to call. For the cost of one coffee a day, a child's life could be saved, they said.

Coffee was 99 cents back then. Still, somehow, my fingers never dialed. Something else came up. The most vulnerable among us slipped quickly from the mind.

Today not enough has changed, except for the price of coffee (now upwards of $4 for a latte with all the fixings).

Victims of Katrina and Rita are in the back of minds. Even more important, those in our neighborhood - right here in New Jersey - continue to struggle for food, a decent wage, shelter and a way to provide for their children.

This year the battle for needed donations has grown tougher.

Americans have given generously in 2005: $1.6 billion for hurricane survivors, $5.4 million for victims of the earthquake in Pakistan and $567 million for those left reeling after the tsunami Southeast Asia, according to the American Red Cross.

Are we tired of giving? Is that all we've got?

In New Jersey, it seems there's room for just a little bit more. New Jerseyans ranked 48th out of the 50 states when it comes to giving, according to the latest study released by the Generosity Index.

Yet New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the nation. And it's poor feel it in the high cost of living and renting. A fifth of the state's population live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We can do better. It doesn't take much. Maybe just the cost of an extra cup of coffee.

And maybe go one step further. Pick a local diner and invite someone to share a cup with you. Because giving of time is as important - sometimes more - than money.

It only takes a little to make a lot of difference.