Tag Archives: Homelessness

How to really celebrate the Spirit of Christmas

 

Every year I make a list of the things that I want to do during the holiday season. Christmas isn’t just about getting presents for me — it never was. My childhood wasn’t filled with things like most American kids have nowadays. I was lucky if I got new underwear or pajamas from Santa some years. The Christmas season was more about experiences. Visiting the Rockefeller Tree. Attending the Natale festival in Little Italy.  Midnight Mass. These are my memories of Christmas. As an adult, I expanded my list of experiences and I want to share them today, because I think everyone should remember what the real spirit of Christmas means. It’s not about getting a new iPad or the latest must-have toy. It’s about experiencing the joy, hope, and love the season embodies and helping others feel the same way.

Here are a few things on my list to do this year:

  1. Volunteer. Those Salvation Army bell ringers don’t grow on trees! It takes a well-coordinated volunteer army to man those kettles you see around stores, in the mall, and on street corners. Give the gift of your time. Usually, shifts are 2 hours. Surely, you’ve got 2 hours you can donate to a worthy cause. 
  2. Attend a local holiday concert. Every year my town has a holiday concert put on by the local Pops Choir. They’re usually a fundraiser, so admission goes toward funding a local charity such as the food bank or a women’s shelter. Kicking back in an auditorium filled with like-minded people who want to enjoy some holiday music sung by people who should – in my opinion – be on American Idol(!) is a great way to spend a wintry, cold afternoon. Sit back, listen and enjoy, and know you are making a difference in someone’s life with the cost of your admission.
  3. Support Toys for Tots. I know I said Christmas isn’t about the presents, but kids, especially kids in foster care, those who have to spend Christmas in the hospital, those whose mothers or fathers are serving in the military thousands of miles away, THOSE kids deserve to get toys and presents. My daughter is an adult and I haven’t bought her a toy in quite some time. But I still toy shop during the holidays so I can hopefully make another child’s day a happy one.

         

         4. Volunteer at the local food kitchen or deliver food to shut-ins. This one is so self-explanatory I don’t need to define it, but I will, with this thought: Think of the meal you have with your family, friends, loved ones every Christmas. I’m sure your table is packed with more food than you all could possibly eat in one sitting. The house is decorated and warm. Everyone is relaxed, happy and glad to be alive. Now think about that family where the dad just lost his job, or the single mom who left an abusive relationship and took her kids with her. They live in a shelter. They worry if they’ll even get a meal a day, much less a holiday one.These are the people food kitchens were made for. Why don’t you take an hour out of your time and volunteer to serve these people.  Spend time with others who don’t have what you do, probably through no circumstances of their own making, and help them see that people really are kind and giving and the world isn’t a terrible, lonely place.

            5.Attend a holiday craft fair. I lovelovelove receiving home-made gifts. This is a great way to support local crafters AND do some holiday gift shopping

           6.Give blood. This may be the last thing you think of doing during the holidays, but believe me, it’s needed. This is the one selfless act that truly means giving because you’re literally giving the gift of life to another human being.

I’m sure you can think of many more worthwhile ways to make your Christmas a happier, more soul-fulfilling experience. I wish you all the most joyous of seasons, and my hope is that after reading this blog today, you’ll go out and make someone else’s life as happy as yours is.

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The power of PEOPLE who care…

I’m going to go off the NaNoWriMo blog bandwagon for a moment because  I want–need–to tell you about an event that happened in my little town yesterday that still has me weeping.

The problem of hunger,  homelessness, and economic disparity in this country is nothing new. Go back to the Great Depression and you can practically mimic some of the events that happened during those devestating years with what is happening in our country today. Hunger, especially, has always been a big concern of mine. I’ve mentioned before I didn’t exactly grow up in the Leave It to Beaver or  Brady Bunch version of a family or household. We were, by today’s standards – poor. The term bandied about nowadays is working poor. My mother and stepfather had jobs, but they didn’t quite make it paycheck to paycheck every month and there were times when the easiest thing to let go was the food bill. I ate a lot of mayonnaise sandwiches growing up, and in a weird way, its kind of like a comfort food for me today.

But I digress…

As I said, hunger and people going hungry have always been a concern for me. I happen to live in a community that has a food pantry, a Saint Vincent DePaul society, and a community kitchen. In October, our local newspaper published a piece about the community kitchen and their struggles to keep available food on the shelves for its recipients and clients. The kitchen had barely enough food to last through Thanksgiving and if their food coffers weren’t filled, they would need to close down right after Thanksgiving. The Community Kitchen serves a large number of families and individuals in this area who–for whatever reason–are not able to adequately feed themselves. The holiday season is an especially difficult time for some families to cope with paying bills, trying to bring some kind of Christmas cheer to their children, and in general, just getting a meal on the table. To have the kitchen close its doors – and at the holiday season – was a grave concern.

Well, enter MOMS On A MISSION.

Yesterday, in an empty storefront in the center of Keene’s busy downtown, these wonderful women organized what was originally billed as 1000 cans in 1000 minutes. Facebook publicity, word of mouth, and in every way they could, these women got the word out that they would be manning this store all day to accept any and all food and monetary donations for the Keene Community Kitchen to aid them in keeping their doors open to the people who so need them.

That 1000 can goal quickly switched to 2000…then 10,000… then 20,000. And when it looked like they might be done, they issued another challenge: why not 25,000 cans/boxes of food?

Final tally last night when they officially closed their donation doors? 25,860 cans/boxes of food raised by the grassroots efforts of 8 Moms who know that no child or family or person of any age should know hunger in this day and age.

I love living in a small town because of unifying events like this. When you really know your neighbors, know their struggles, their strengths, the foundation of their circumstances, you know yourself as a human being in ways you’d never consider in a more urban, non-individualistic, less neighborly area. And you can see the benefits of generosity firsthand.

These women epitomize the good neighbor principle.

I just want to add one more thing before I finish. Yesterday in Mass, my Pastor spoke a homily extolling the virtues of living the Corporeal Code of Jesus as Catholics and Christians.  One of the codes for Christian behavior Jesus asked of us is to feed the hungry. These women, by the virtue of their actions, the love in their hearts, and their  spirit of giving, have shown our community what it means to be generous, selfless,  and charitable. They have truly shown us what it means to walk the walk and talk the talk of neighbor-helping-neighbor.

The power of a Mother on a Mission is one of the greatest and most powerful forces in the universe. I am so proud of these women. Proud to know them, proud to honor them, and proud to tell you about them.

No child, or any person really, should ever know the ravages of a hungry belly. Not at Christmastime or any time of the year. I ask you to be that good neighbor; that community spirited and minded person; that honorable human being. Take care of your neighbors as you’d take care of your own family. Put yourself in the body of someone who doesn’t have enough to eat and see what it feels like to them to know hunger when all around them are full. And, if you’re like me – someone who knew the horrors and pains of hunger and who now lives a full, better life – pay it forward.

A generous spirit, and a knowledge of how to make someone else’s life better make us all better human beings. I live this and I believe this with all my heart and soul.

To support our local Community Kitchen and other Food based charities in our area, click here:

Keene Area Food Pantries

The NH Food Bank

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