Monday, November 16, 2009

Bonanza Column 159 – The Spirit of the Holidays

Time seems to go more quickly as I get older. I'm not sure what happened, but the winter holiday season is suddenly upon us – Thanksgiving next week, then Christmas, with Hanukah thrown into the mix as well as Kwanzaa and both Ramadan and Diwali already behind us.

This time of year, between the gratitude of Thanksgiving and the gift-giving and partying of the December holidays (isn't that backward?), it seems we give more of a thought than usual to those who have less or have nothing. That seems especially appropriate at the moment, given the continuing struggle with the economy. Last year the economy was arguably worse, but there was the optimism of a new administration coming in, and we had not yet begun to confront the fact that some 14 million people in the US have no health care. Also, the good feeling of an economic recovery is dampened by the very real prospect that this recovery will be "jobless."

The economists tell us that the recession is over, but it seems to me that that's a bit like Einstein's golf game – it's good in theory. There is a wide gulf between the world of technical economics, which measures recession and inflation in graphs and charts and the world of personal economics, where the measures are income, outgo, and the gap between the two. A "jobless recovery" strikes me as an oxymoron on the personal level, whatever the graphs and charts might say.

Here in IV/CB we have a plethora of organizations that provide a way to try to redress the plight of individuals and families in need all year round and especially at this time of year. Childrens Cabinet, Project Mana, Tahoe Womens Foundation, Tahoe Childrens Foundation, our churches and synagogue, the list goes on and on.

Along with these organizations, we have some really great individuals and businesses as well – the US Marine Corps runs Toys for Tots nationally, and the Incline Village Board of Realtors does a splendid job of running it locally. Volunteers run the thrift shops as a way of creating some income for non-profits, but also to provide affordable clothing, furnishings, and toys for those who can't shop at Macy's or Dillards or even Wal-Mart and Costco. The Rotary, Lions, and Optimists help where they can and do a great job, and the churches and synagogue collect toys, warm clothes, and send shoeboxes of items to the troops.

In kindness and caring for others less fortunate, as in crime, there needs to be means, motive, and opportunity. As the last paragraphs show, we have ample opportunity. Most of us in this community, however hard the economy has hit us, have the means. What we need is the motive.

What if no one in the Incline/Crystal Bay community was hungry at this holiday season? What if no child had to try to understand why Santa skipped him or her? What if every family, regardless of means could sit down and be thankful for a holiday dinner? A tree? Gifts for all? What if no veteran was alone or homeless at this season?

Unlike a metropolis like New York or San Francisco, we have it in our power to make that vision a reality. All we need to do is to set aside politics, selfishness, and not caring and to replace those unworthy motive with the motive of caring, of compassion, and the real grace of the season which expresses our gratitude for what we have by sharing it with others. Isn't that what it's about?

So contact one of those organizations or individuals who work so hard to care, and give them a hand, preferably a hand with money, food, toys, or shelter in it. You'll enjoy the holidays a lot more, I guarantee it.

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