Friday, December 17, 2010

Hunger Knows No Season

I've been wracking my brain over something for the last several weeks. Every since the Thanksgiving holidays arrived, and on into the Christmas season, everywhere I turn there is someone raising money or collecting food to help a needy family "during the holidays." There are food boxes to be filled at local banks and grocery stores, and most churches have adopted a family to help. And then there are the yearly Salvation Army bell ringers at the door to nearly every business in town doing their part to collect any spare change you may have to "help the needy at Christmas." There are even places in town who offer a free hot meal to those without food "on Thanksgiving Day" or "on Christmas Day." I just cannot understand all of this.

Don't get me wrong. I am not, in any way, against giving food and clothes to those in need. In fact, my husband and I have often given a month's worth of groceries to a family experiencing hard times due to lack of work or whatever - and we have never regretted it. There have been many occasions when we have chosen to give money to a family who really, really needed help. I LOVE being able to help others, and I love even more that Brient and I try our best to do it anonymously. I get great satisfaction knowing that we were a blessing to some family, and, since they don't know who did the "good deed", there is no chance they can ever think about paying it back! LOVE that feeling!

What I don't understand is why everyone feels the need to do their "helping" only during the holidays. In truth, there are many people who are going hungry and need clothes to keep warm during this time of the year. But why give only one month out of the year, or, in the case of the hot meal, one day of the year. People are in need every day of every year, and it is a shame that so many people are only willing to give when the holidays roll around.

After thinking about this for awhile, I think I have come to at least one reason that may contribute to societies "do-good" mentality for this one time each year. During the holidays, most people seem to be more considerate, compassionate, and sensitive to others around them. We all seem to have more of that "holiday spirit" that just puts us in a giving mood. Also, that same "holiday spirit" seems to cause most people to shop and buy many things that they don't need with money that they don't have. It seems to me that, when people are out buying and spending all that money and coming home with loads of packages to put under their trees, they begin to feel a tad bit guilty. People begin to feel guilty that they "have" and others "do not have." They feel guilty that they just spent a few months worth of paychecks on "things", and there are other "less fortunate people" out there who won't be doing the same. I think (and this is entirely my own opinion on this) that people, after feeling guilty over their "holiday spirit", begin to want to somehow justify all of their "money well spent", and, in turn, decide to help "those less fortunate" than themselves.

And that's where our giving comes in. People decide to "help" all those poor, hungry people out there with food or money or clothing or whatever. They give to all the causes, they donate food and toys to all the boxes, and they may even feel the need to go and help at one of the outreaches. Many see to it that every family has the traditional holiday meals and lots of gifts to open on the big day. And, after that is all done, their conscience is eased, they have done their part to help lower class America, and they can go back to enjoying their own holidays.

In truth, all the help that comes in this way is certainly needed and appreciated. What bothers me is that most people, during the rest of the year, are too busy, too broke, too whatever to help anyone. Hunger and lack of clothing is not limited only to the holidays. There are 364 other days in each year that people go without. There are 11 more months in each year that people are in need of basic living essentials.

Now, I realize that many of you reading this are probably thinking, "Wait a minute. I give because I really love giving to people, and I give all year." Good job. I'm not referring to you. Check your motives this holiday season. Why are you giving to "the less fortunate"? If your motives are pure, FANTASTIC! But if you are doing it to ease your conscience because of your way of life, you may need to step back and rethink some things.

My challenge to you is this. I challenge you to not only give during the holidays, but to remember and to commit to give all year long. Don't forget that, every time you sit down to a meal with your family any time this year, there is another family somewhere who is going without. Purpose to seek out one family each month this year to help. Find a family and give to them in secret. We don't give to the local food bank, even though I know they are a large organization who helps a lot of needy people. Instead, we look for individual families that we can help personally and KNOW that we made a difference in their lives. Remember, the saying is very true - "Hunger knows no season."

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“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess