This is the time of the year that families and friends gather together to celebrate the Christmas holidays with traditions and yuletide cheer. What a delight to put those treasured Christmas decorations from years past and new meaningful ones to pass down to generations to come, up all around the house and our lawns. In our warm homes, smells of holiday baking with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger fill the air with their blended cornucopia of delights. We snuggle in our beds laden with sheets, pillows and comforters, warm and cozy with thoughts of Christmas spirit dancing in our heads. We are safe and secure with knowledge that tomorrow will bring new adventures as we travel to Christmas Eve and Day for 2014.
But on our streets, in the doorways of our buildings and under overpasses in our towns, cities, suburbs and rural communities, Christmas is just a dream of the past where our homeless dwell. Working professionals that got lost in the mainstream of loss of jobs, housing foreclosures and inability to find new jobs rub elbows with the bench dwellers and homeless who have learned from experience to make the best of each day as it comes.
One day food is available so they eat until they are full, not knowing when they will have a next meal. One day being able to sleep on a bed in a damp, cramped shelter because they were the lucky ones to be in line when their number was called. The next day is the elusive hunt for a box big enough to sleep in and give some comfort from the weather, lying under blankets made of newspaper and cardboard with all their worldly belongings crammed into the front to prevent theft of such meager things.
You see them, you just ignore them. True these people are unkempt, dirty, hungry and lacking in human emotions at time. But understand this, the ones that you look over today could be you or your family tomorrow when hard times hit and no solutions are in sight! You are not immune!
My Thanksgiving night traditions end with a cup of coffee, snuggling in a chair and watching “Scrooge” by Charles Dickens on my TV in the warmth of my living room. I am partial to the George C. Scott version but my son loves the Patrick Steward version. Occasionally we throw in the old ones; Alistair Cook, Albert Finney and Henry Winkler versions. But the message is clear no matter which version we watch: mankind is our business and helping those less fortunate and in dire need is of the utmost importance in this day and age.
Even though I am the Executive Director and Founder of The Lighthouse for Recovery Ministries, I volunteer throughout the year with other agencies for social issues and concerns that are near and dear to my heart. It doesn’t take much: a few coins in the red kettles of the Salvation Army to help buy food and provide toys to indigent children through their Angel Tree programs, a helping hand to wrap gifts and deliver them to the ones in need, to donate to agencies who are being overwhelmed with request for assistance at this time of year and have to turn away many deserving individuals and their families for lack of funds to provide help.
This has been a rough year for me: a divorce filled with sorrow and dismay, personal and medical issues that tend to prevent me from being totally effective some days, trying to expand the services and programs of The Lighthouse to meet the growing and overwhelming needs of others and dealing with a household filled with my loved ones as a single person in middle age.
But as I am preparing to transport my Christmas decorations from my storage this week to begin the joyous fun of turning my home into a Santa Winter Wonderland as we do each year, I look at my blessings.
For now, I have a home with a roof over my head, I have warmth and coolness from utilities that flow throughout my home on a daily basis, I have furniture that provides me with comfort when needed, I have a kitchen stocked with food that I can walk into at any time and prepare a meal if I am hungry, I have my family who live with me: my youngest son and seven wonderful dogs who provide me with constant dose of love, support and true happiness. I am blessed beyond measure with good friends with hearts of gold and so many silver linings that I cannot keep count.
But this could change in a twinkling of an eye; it almost did this past year!
Look into your hearts and gather together the thoughts of what is the true meaning of Christmas Spirit. I am 56 years old and I still believe in Santa Claus, the spirit of giving from the heart and love for others no matter what station we are in life at this moment.
So I am asking at this season of joy and happiness for you and yours, please take the single moment and donate your time, effort or funds to those worthy agencies that need your assistance at this time of year. Or find an elderly person on a fixed income and buy a basket of food items to give to them. Take old comforters, blankets and sheets and give them to a homeless person on the street for warmth and comfort. Buy one extra gift and give it to a child who will not have anything under their tree this holiday.
So little time on your part, but a mountain of joy and happiness on the person receiving your kindness!