Some Pre-Holiday Thoughts, For What It’s Worth

As the holiday season approaches, it is a time of joy and happiness, togetherness and thanksgiving for all of the great things we have been so fortunate to experience in our lives.  I am so thankful for the good family into which I was born, the good family into which I married, and the good family that Linda and I share with our children.  I have seen more bounty than want throughout my life, and I feel that I am truly blessed with more than I could ever deserve.

But as we each reflect on what we enjoy in our lives, we must also remember those who are far less fortunate.  There are children aching from hunger and want, abused women, people who have lost hope as a result of economic downturns, the elderly and disabled forgotten by society.

I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, that great champion of not only civil rights for an oppressed minority, but a champion of human rights, for all mankind.  King said, “…in the final analysis all life is interrelated. No nation or individual is independent; we are interdependent. We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality.

“As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I possess a billion dollars. As long as millions of people are inflicted with debilitating diseases and cannot expect to live more than thirty-five years, I can never be totally healthy even if I receive a perfect bill of health from Mayo Clinic. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. John Donne placed this truth in graphic terms when he affirmed, “No man is an island entire of itself.  Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Then he goes on to say, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.””

The wisdom literature of the Bible also tells us that when we give to see to the needs of others, that generosity will one day return to us.  I believe that is the message to us in Ecclesiastes 11.1-4.

“11 Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
3 If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.”

Especially verses 1,2 and 4 are significant here: to give is not to lose, but to invest.  And anyone who questions conditions will not benefit in any way from any work, whether benevolent or any other.

Now it is not my goal — and certainly not my place — to try and serve as anyone’s social conscience outside my own life, and perhaps that of my children.  But I would challenge each of us, myself included, to try and find more ways, not only in this holiday season but always, to brighten the world for people in need, or pain, or despair.  Many good organizations make these things easy to accomplish:  The Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Foundation, Feeding America, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and hosts of other national and local groups are good places to start.  And that does not include simple expressions of kind words or good deeds that make life better for everyone, especially those facing challenges in their lives.   

To become more engaged with all of humanity is not to be pulled down to a status we may think beneath us, but rather to lift each other up, acknowledging the dignity and value of each life.      

(revised and expanded from a  Facebook note, 11/6/2012)


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