'Strong Thoughts: Keeping the giving in the season of giving
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Dec 15, 2013 | 424 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Christmas carolers have begun their caroling. The shoppers have begun to pack out malls and the stores found within them. With all the evergreen wreaths and glittering lights decorating local homes and businesses, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

A normal weekend shopping trip can become something slightly more magical than usual. As the cold chill makes one pull their coats around them while walking up to a place of business, one can hear bells ringing just like the author of the song “Silver Bells” could.

Chilly but friendly workers ring bells as they stand by business’ doors to raise money for their causes. Decorations tied around the door handles of businesses chime to announce a customer’s presence. Shoppers can be heard doing some jingling of their own as they either go through their pocket change or peruse jewelry or decorations that allow for the tinkling of bells.

“Silver bells, silver bells … It’s Christmastime in the city.”

Shoppers take their packages home and might shake off a bit of the outdoor chill by enjoying a warm drink like hot chocolate or coffee, perhaps stirred with a festive peppermint candy cane.

Now that they’ve gotten warm, they can settle into lovingly wrapping gifts for friends and family — or at least somewhat lovingly stuff them into gift bags.

Meanwhile, a homeless man might be wandering the street, not making a list and checking it twice but trying to survive and focus on one thing at a time — the next meal or the next place to sleep or the next job application.

Meanwhile, a nursing home resident who recently lost her husband wistfully looks on as her fellow residents receive visits and Christmas cards from their loved ones, remembering what it was like to celebrate the season with someone she loved.

Meanwhile, a couple like the ones being helped by the nonprofit that accepts donations with red kettles is wondering how they’re going to pay for their heating bill or buy gifts for their children.

Meanwhile, a single mother is going into debt buying Christmas gifts because she doesn’t want her children to know that times are hard, trying to keep the magic alive for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, a child in a foster home is wondering if he or she will finally get to have a Christmas like the ones their classmates talk about in school in January, the kind where Santa visits or a family cheerfully celebrates together.

While the season is a magical one for some, the festivities surrounding this time of year magnify the differences between the “haves” and “have-nots” like none other.

The stresses of the holidays can add to already-stressful situations, making celebrating the holidays seem like frivolous things.

If you’re enjoying the Christmas season, remember that there are those who are not. In that case, why not spread the holiday cheer?

If you are able to do so, set aside some of your finances to help those in need this season. Whether you have extra money or not, make time to volunteer to help those in need. Local nonprofits, churches and even businesses tend to find ways to help those in need during the season. Consider joining other people in their efforts to help others.

If someone seems to be having a not-so-jolly holiday season, make time to listen to them. When the stresses of life pile up, many people find that they really need a listening ear.

Knowing that someone cares enough about them to ask how they are doing might just provide them with the joy they need to celebrate.

All of us — regardless of economic status, race or gender — go through hard times, and the things that happen do not always happen outside of the holiday season. Families may fall apart. Jobs may be lost. Houses may burn down. Catastrophe happens, and it would be a huge oversight to believe that bad things only happen when the community is collectively observing holiday festivities.

A lot is said each year about remembering what Christmas is all about — giving. Many people give simply to share with the ones they love, and giving takes on an even stronger meaning to those in Christian circles who give to others to celebrate God giving the gift of His son, Jesus, to the world.

Remember to keep the idea of giving in the front of your mind this season, whether it be of your time or other resources. Let the song you sing be one that proclaims “Joy to the World” rather than one proclaiming what you want to receive. No number of iPads or big-screen TVs or cameras can compare to what can happen when people decide to focus on giving rather than getting.