The Red Stocking gifts have been delivered. The tots have their toys. Cops have been shopped with. The Salvation Army’s red kettles have been stuffed with coins and cash. The gently used coats have been distributed to those who had none. The giving trees are put away in church basements for another year. The gift-stuffed shoeboxes have been shipped around the world. The free holiday meals have been served — though perhaps some lucky folks still have leftovers in the fridge.
And yet, as January approaches, there still are far too many people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Some hope no one will notice they wear the same three outfits time and again, or that their well-worn shoes will make it through one more winter. Others wonder if they will even have a bed to sleep on, or enough money to put gas in the tank to drive around looking for work.
The news has talk about the stock market going the wrong direction or pensions being reduced or taxes going up. Somewhere today at least one corporate accounting team is hard at work trying to see if the holiday shopping season did enough to make business viable for another year or if it’s time to make the difficult decision to shut down for good.
As the Christmas lights fade into January darkness nationwide, focus will turn again toward rebuilding efforts from spring floods, summer wildfires, fall hurricanes and, here in Illinois, even winter tornadoes.
We tick off the final days of 2018, whether at work or still on break, and begin moving back to the routine of our everyday lives. We leave behind family dinners and late-night parties, but do we also leave behind the spirit of giving that has come to define December?
It’s easy to give when there is a giant truck outside the grocery store waiting to be filled with food, or to put an extra check in the church offering plate on Christmas Eve. It’s another thing all together to stop by the food pantry in the middle of February to deliver a case of canned vegetables, or simply to offer to help organize the shelves.
Obviously there are plenty of people in this region who understand the importance of helping those less fortunate regardless of the season. Local charitable organizations do good work day in and day out, sustained on the strength of volunteers and financial contributions. Their activities frequently are documented in the pages of this newspaper, and with good reason. But it’s a safe bet the people who keep such groups running — food pantries, homeless shelters and the like — would be thrilled to have more: more money, more supplies, more helpers.
If you found it in your heart in the last few weeks to share some of your time, talent or treasure, look around in there and see if you can find again the giving spirit. Need knows no season. It is always there, even when help is not. And no person or group agency that is truly in need will care one iota if the contribution came before Christmas or after.
If you can do your part, any part, there is no shortage of opportunities.