Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Season's Greetings

Although I didn't follow my mother's Christian faith, I still love this time of the year. And yes, I do call it Christmas, even though I don't practice or believe in any version of the Christian religion. The reality is that even secular-minded people like me can fully appreciate the good-will-toward-men mentality that presents itself from mid-November through the beginnings of a new year. It gives us all hope that, despite our differences, our more generous and humble nature will prevail to ensure that the world will survive for one more year until we can regain this feeling again.

Today at the grocery store I bought a bag of food for some nameless needy family, and had my son help me drop it into the collection barrel as we walked out the door. When he asked why we were leaving a bag of food at the store I simply replied that we need to help those who don't have enough food. The sad thing is that so many of us (myself included) don't do this enough throughout the year.

I've been poor and I've seen the sadness on my mother's face because of it, still I become so wrapped up in my own world that I seldom remember to extend my own helping hand. I do a lot of socially conscious work as a teacher, but I get paid for that so it really shouldn't count. But today at the grocery store I picked up a pre-packaged bag of food that cost me about six dollars to help another human being. It honestly isn't enough, so I am sure I will repeat the gesture a number of times in the coming weeks, but then what?

Like so many parents I'm going to spend more than I should at Christmas time on my children and on the children of those I care deeply about, but that isn't what this season is about. Throughout the northern hemisphere cultures have used this time leading up to the winter solstice to battle the the very real, increasing darkness; and this might be key factor to what has helped us survive. Regardless of a person's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) we, as a species, has found it in our hearts to help those in need. Some do it as an ulterior motive for some personal or collective gain, and I believe them to be down right despicable. Yet, others give just because it is the correct thing to do, with no strings attached, no pop quiz before you get your meal, no jibber jabber to earn a blanket and a cot. They just give because it is the human thing to do.

I hope that during the next couple weeks we all can find it in our hearts and pocketbooks to buy a bag of groceries, a blanket, or a toy for someone who has less than we do. I hope that I remember to do it enough that my children learn that giving is an essential part of humanity. I hope I can sustain my efforts beyond the new year, and hope you can too. Together, we just might make the world a better place. You never know, one day when you least expect it, you just might be paid in kind for your small sacrifice, and on that day, at that moment, you will realize how fortunate you were to give and how fortunate it can be to receive.

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