Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday's Words for December 11, 2013

Are you tired of the “holiday season” yet? Personally, I hate what we as a society have done to what is a very special time of year.

Every year, it seems to me, the hype at the malls gets bigger and louder and glitzier. The music, the decorations, and the push to buy more, get more, have’s enough to give anyone a headache.

As much as possible, I try to stay away from the malls during the Christmas season. For the last couple of years we’ve been giving gift cards to everyone (except the very young), and we give everyone the same amount. One stop shopping for just about everyone on our list. But that isn’t the only giving that we do.

In our grocery store, where we shop every week, there is a big bin that has the words, “food bank” blazoned across it. It is there, permanently, every single day, but it only seems to be full, or nearly so, during this time of year.

I believe that if every single person who shops there, every week, were to buy just one thing—a jar of peanut butter, some tuna, jar of baby food, or even a can of stew—that bin would be full every day, and those most in need would be fed, every day.

But ‘tis the season when the status conscious (as opposed to the morally conscious) make a big show of giving to the poor. Seeing this, knowing this, used to make me shake my head. It’s like they’re saying, hey, if you’re really poor, and hungry, then hurray, you got to eat well for one day of the year.

I saw something last year that really shocked me and made me think. I never spoke out at the time, because I think such acts as this invoke their own Karma. And it happened at this time of year.

In December our local grocery store sponsors a “fill the cruiser” campaign. On three weekends, a police cruiser is parked in front of the doors of the store, lights flashing, and people are encouraged to give the officer some food for the needy, that he then puts in the cruiser. These donations are taken to the Salvation Army, a charitable group that does wonderful work in our community.

Last year, as I had just left the checkout and was heading out of the store, a well dressed man (suit, tie, overcoat and hat) stepped in front of me after going, empty handed, through the lane at the “express” counter. He then scooped a bag that had been placed in the food bin by someone else, and carried it outside and handed it to the officer collecting donations.

Of course, the cop thanked him for his charity, and this good Samaritan stood and chatted with the nice officer for a while, basking in the glow of his goodness.

I didn’t say anything at the time. But I thought about that episode a lot later.

Some people, I guess, are happy with making a “show” of generosity and caring, like that man was. And he got the only reward he’s ever going to get: an empty “thank you”. Not that the officer was disingenuous, because he was not. But since the man had done nothing to earn gratitude, then the gratitude he was given, was worthless.

I believe—I choose to believe—that most people are generous and genuine. I choose to believe that most people will lend a hand to a stranger if the opportunity is there. I choose to believe that the number of selfless acts performed quietly and without fanfare every day outweigh the moments of false braggadocio—or the moments when people simply turn away from helping.

There are always people in worse straits than we are; and no matter how humble are our means, we can always give something.

If I buy one can of stew for 1 dollar, and you buy one can of stew, and everyone buys one can of stew, and there are 1000 people shopping at the store that day, then that is 1000 cans of stew! And if a family of 4 were to eat 2 cans of stew per meal, for three meals a day, that is 6 cans of stew. One thousand cans divided by 6 means that 166 families could eat for 1 day – and all you donated was a dollar.

Yes, that illustration was very simple. But then, so is giving, when you get right down to it.


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