As we near the holiday season, it will become more commonplace to see familiar red kettles and to hear the tinkling of Christmas bells in the hands of Salvation Army workers at the supermarket. Toy drives will be in full effect and announcements will begin to flood mailboxes and inboxes asking recipients to give back. Sure enough, with hearts full of gratitude, especially during a season filled with family meals and gift exchanges, donations will begin to pour into the hands of those in need. This is absolutely a great thing, however, it doesn’t make up for the other 11 months that a family or individual goes unclothed, hungry and unsheltered.Our generosity should not be limited to the holiday season.
I can say from my own volunteer experiences that Thanksgiving meal initiatives and Christmas drives go a long way toward brightening someone’s day and making their life a little bit easier. But, while individuals are generally appreciative of a warm meal, the reality is that a one-time gift can only go so far. By the end of that day, they might have only had that one warm meal, a donated blanket may have been lost or stolen and the brand-new pair of socks might be ripped in areas and soiled.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. The gestures are important and very much needed. Yet, this doesn’t change the fact that a large issue cannot be given a temporary fix. For example, after being given a care package on Thanksgiving day, there will still be hunger to be faced the next day. This means that the 35,900 homeless which the Florida Homeless Coalition has reported live on our streets, will need to continue their daily search for food, warmth, shelter, clothing and safety.
We should also keep in mind that persons who are in need are not limited to the homeless, shut-ins or elderly. According to a report created by the United States Census Bureau, last year 40.6 million people were living below the poverty line. Therefore, while the homeless need help, there remain persons who are employed — and likely sheltered — who still struggle to make ends meet. As such, when giving to causes, we should keep these people, who may be your classmates, neighbors or even your co-workers, in mind. Their needs may not be immediately evident, but they are still valid and very much real.
So, over this holiday season, when you’re donating to causes and volunteering your time, ask about what you can do throughout the year to be of help. If you find that there’s nothing in place, consider starting an initiative that can fill that void. Reaching out to those in need should not be an action determined by feeling that comes over you during the holiday season. Their struggles are real year-round; our help should be evident then, too.