Christmas Has Come and Gone - Where are the Volunteers?
Christmas has come and gone. At some houses, there was surprise and delight at all the wondrous gifts under the tree.
At other houses, the children wondered what they had done that was so bad that Santa had not stopped there.
Some children whined and complained. The TV Santa brought them for their room wasn’t big enough. The Nintendo didn’t have enough games.
A child at a shelter murmured a shy, “Tank ‘ou,” when the Santa’s helper handed her a somewhat worn stuffed bear.
The helper whispered to the overburdened Mama, “I’m sorry. We had so many needy kids this year. This is all I have left.”
The Mama just nodded resignedly.
Another child, a boy about 6 – 7 years old, gathered up the nerve to question Santa. “If you can buy presents for all the kids in the world, why can’t you hire my Daddy to help you deliver them so he could make enough money to buy us food?”
These stories in one version or another were repeated over and over again throughout the world, in spite of the fact that more people open their hearts and their wallets to the needy at Christmas than at any other time of the year.
If you are a year-round volunteer, you see it every day. The children with holes in their too-small shoes. The six-year old forced to care for her 3, 4 and 5 year old siblings because Mama just had a new baby and doesn’t feel good. The homeless man with cancer struggling to get on Medicaid.
If you only think about helping at Christmas, you may never see it. You go to the restaurant or WalMart and choose an “angel” from the tree and buy presents for that child. Or you serve food to the people who come to your church for a holiday meal. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel that you are helping the unfortunate.
The bitter truth is that even the child who gets presents from one of the charities on Christmas, must struggle the other 364 days of the year. The candy cane he gets from the mall Santa may be the only candy he will have for months.
So many of us who have a roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes to wear do not realize that we are more fortunate than 75% of the people in this world. We tend to think that anyone who isn’t as successful as we are is lazy – that jobs are plentiful, IF you are willing to work.
That isn’t necessarily true. In fact, it is the exception, rather than the rule. Jobs are lost through no fault of the employee. Unexpected cancer eats up a family’s savings. Women are dumped by dead-beat dads who would rather go out and make more babies with someone new than care for those they already have. Others are trying to escape abusive situations, but end up going back because there is no place else to go. Some have been turned out of mental facilities because their “benefits” ran out.
These situations, and some that are even worse are happening right here in the US every day. You don’t have to go to Darfur, or Bangladesh, or some other country you may never have heard of before. You don’t even have to go to someplace that has been decimated by natural disasters. It’s happening right here in the US, in New York City, Chicago, Los Angles, and everywhere in between. And yes, it’s happening right in your town/county/state.
I guarantee that the statistics will shock you. But, I didn’t write this article to destroy your happy after-Christmas glow. I wrote it to make you think about the rest of the year.
You don’t have to be rich to help others. Every little bit helps. If each of us would donate just $1 per week, we could raise hundreds of millions of dollars every year to help those less fortunate than us – right here in the U.S.
When you go to the store and buy an 8-roll package of toilet paper, can you spare one roll to give to the poor? The same with paper towels, or soap, or many other things that we never give a second thought to when we buy them.
If that seems just too impersonal to you, how would you like to adopt a family? Gather a group of friends committed to help, or your church or social group and call your local United Way. You know them. They’re the folks who operate Meals on Wheels, the Soup Kitchen, Family Services, free preschools, and many other agencies. They help people apply for Medicaid, Food Stamps and other benefits. They distribute the donations to those who need them most.
They will tell you how you can adopt a family – for whatever period of time you would like – one time, a month, 3 months, 6 months, a year, or whatever. Maybe this month, they need a little help to keep the electric from being turned off. Maybe next month, the kids need new shoes.
Are there sometimes abuses in the system? Of course there are. There are abuses in every system known to humans, in every walk of life. The news is full of abuses, from reports that the governor of Illinois trying to sell a senate seat to news of some investment guy named Madoff bilking millions of dollars from hundreds of unsuspecting people, including wealthy people and charities. At least you will know that the people at the United Way have done their best to screen out the cheaters.
And when you give, give with an open heart. Don’t be quick to judge. Maybe you don’t think that this family needs cable TV – did you stop to think that they are attempting to learn English from the TV so that they can get a better job? Or maybe the TV is a learning tool for the children (Sesame Street, etc.).
And don’t forget, people need a little treat every now and then. Life is supposed to be more than just a non-ending struggle to survive.
So, get up off your seat and do something – anything. The slightest improvement on a daily basis creates massive results in the long term.