Editorial: The spirit of giving shows

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 24, 2006

The clock is ticking toward Christmas, and the people who run Christmas Happiness are getting nervous. That would be people who collect the donations at the Salisbury Post and distribute them through the Rowan County Department of Social Services. Some parents who have little money and are hoping to buy a gift for their children with Christmas Happiness may find out this Friday that they can’t.

The money will have run out.

So a plea is going out for people to donate to Christmas Happiness. But it’s not just Christmas Happiness that seeks your support. Charitable agencies, educational institutions and causes of all kinds send out letters of solicitation at this time of year, and for good reason. People are in the giving spirit at Christmas, and getting a tax deduction before the year ends doesn’t hurt.

Christmas has become too much about stuff, too commercial, many people complain, and the rest of us know they’re right. The shopping frenzy that helps drive the economy goes overboard in some corners. It’s awfully easy to forget Christmas is a religious holiday.

But as consumers are checking items off our shopping lists this week, we’d do well to think of the people who are not, the people for whom life can be a day to day struggle.

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the nation became suddenly aware of poverty. Some people failed to flee the storm because they had no means to do so — no car, no money and, after Katrina, little dignity. The poor suffered most of all, and suddenly the entire nation recognized their plight. It’s one thing to empathize with people who lost everything they had and another to realize multitudes of people have nothing.

We reached out.

Charitable giving in the United States jumped in 2005 as people sought to help victims of Katrina and other natural disasters. Giving USA, the yearbook of philanthropy, estimates Americans gave contributions totaling $260.28 billion in 2005, up 6.1 percent from the previous year. About half of the $15 billion increase over 2004 was disaster relief.

Lots of storm survivors live in Rowan County — not hurricane survivors, but people who are battered by life’s storms. Without health insurance, illness can wipe out a family’s pocketbook in a second. Without an education, good jobs are hard to come by. Then there’s the perfect storm of illness, unemployment and poor decision-making skills.

The list of circumstances that can lead a person to Rowan Helping Ministries, the Salvation Army or any other agency with a hand out for help is endless. Fortunately, so are the ways you can help. As you wonder what to give the person who has everything this Christmas, consider ways to help people who have very little. They are not as visible as hurricane refugees, but they are all around us, trying to survive. Your contribution to a local charity could be their lifeline.