’Tis the season, as the saying goes. The days, as of today, are getting longer.
Most of us are snug in warm homes, with pantries stocked with goodies. There is plenty about which to celebrate.
It’s Christmas time, a holiday celebrated around the world. Not everyone follows the tradition of observing this as the birth of Jesus, as does this writer. Members of the Hebrew faith from whom the Christ Child descended have just completed their religious celebration of Hanukkah, a celebration of light, rebirth, and exchange of gifts. They and those of others of the world’s religions don’t recognize the founder of the Christian faith as the Messiah. But most of them do recognize one Supreme Being. In that, we are all united.
The message that Christ brought to us is one of love, forgiveness, and charity toward all people. It is hard to argue against such a charge. It is one all of us should follow. According to Scripture, when the crowd moved to stone a woman who was accused of adultery, He looked at them and said, “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” None did.
Followers of the One who gave His life to save us all were urged to visit those in prison, provide clothing to those who had none, care for the sick and feed the hungry. Many stories were told to illustrate those messages. He even told of the widow who only had two small coins to her name, but gave those to help others. That is a compelling story, showing that even the poor can share something useful to someone in need.
There is plenty of need around us. America is said to be the wealthiest country in the world, yet there are thousands of people within our borders who are homeless and hungry.
We cannot in good conscience stand by and watch them starve or freeze to death.
Few of us can copy the men who go about the country, handing out 100 dollar bills to homeless people. But 100 of us dropping a dollar into the kettle of a Salvation Army volunteer can do as much for one as they do for many.
Alaskans have just experienced a massive earthquake that left many people homeless or facing substantial repair costs. Individual churches, the Red Cross, the Anchorage Community Foundation, Lions Clubs and other civic groups, and veterans’ organizations, all stand ready to help. Donations to recognized non-profit organizations are deductible, by the way, so donors can benefit a bit financially as well as to a great extent spiritually from giving.
While we are in the spirit of the season for giving, some people are not needy but greedy. Our good nature makes us easy targets for crooks who prey on compassionate marks. When you respond to a plea for funds, make sure it is to a known charity that can be expected to put your donation to good use. If approached by an individual who seeks help, refer them to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or a government assistance program. They are best able to help—and know how to weed out the greedy who are out to benefit from the season without good reason.
Some of the problems of the needy are beyond our ability to help as individuals. Some who are homeless have disabilities that prevent them from being able to help themselves. Anchorage is working to create housing to assist these people. It is a complicated matter that demands a complex solution. Many intelligent people have tackled the problem, but sadly it continues despite their best efforts.
Those of us who grew up during the Great Depression saw many abuses of government programs.
Some whose parents struggled to put food on the table were discouraged to see housing provided to the poor destroyed by the very benefactors who were given a place to live. Laborers hired to clean ditches under the Work Projects Administration (WPA) but who spent much of their time leaning on shovels and talking with others who were also on the clock soon earned the nickname “We Poke Along” for the agency.
There are a few who would prefer to have a handout without any effort on their part. But there are many more who would prefer to work if they could find employment or could learn a skill that is needed. They have the potential to become contributing citizens. They deserve our help.
This, though, is the season to be merry, not mired in pity. Helping the needy through a donation of time and money is good for the soul.
We can put off searching for solutions to the country’s problems until the New Year.
With snow now having at last fallen, the ski trails beckon. It’s time to get out and enjoy the winter outdoors in all its glory.
Parties abound during the holidays. Festivities to break up the winter darkness have been in fashion for millennia. It’s time to forget the unpleasant and enjoy the present. Big dinners with family and friends are in the offing. Eat, drink and be merry. After all, dieting can wait a few more days until we make our resolutions for 2019.
To help ease nerves rattled by lingering aftershocks from the big shake, renew the Christmas spirit by taking a drive around the community.
See the bright lights and displays that adorn houses and businesses. Even though the temperatures are dropping, those sights are enough to warm the cockles of your heart.
Alaskans have lived through a bad experience but won’t let it darken their lives. The star on the mountain still shines, just as did the star of Bethlehem on that Christmas 2,018 years ago. It is a reminder of promises made for those who choose to follow its path. Alaska’s motto is “North to the Future.” It is a future that is bright and will remain bright despite Mother Nature’s occasional rearranging of her position. After all, it’s something we often do to make ourselves more comfortable.
To those who think it only correct to say “Happy Holidays,” I say, “Bah, humbug!” To the rest, I join in wishing you a “Merry Christmas.” May God forever keep you in His loving embrace.