Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Season's Upon Us

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I am not a happy camper at "The Holidays." And let me further note that "The Holidays" starts earlier and earlier each year which only adds to the stress.

When I was a kid, the Christmas season started on Thanksgiving Day with parades in every major city (the big ones, at least for me, being in New York and Philly) and the arrival (at the very end of the parade) of the Jolly Elf, Himself.

Not so much any more.

Christmas stuff started appearing in stores before school had even gotten underway this year. By Halloween, all the stores were decked out. Thanksgiving has been shoved aside in favor of snowmen and reindeer and I just want to cover my ears when I hear the music on the PA systems.

I sometimes wonder if I am pushing my own family away with my Grinchy attitudes. I dearly despise the whole "holiday season" and the fact that it starts earlier and earlier each year stresses me to no end. I hope I have not passed that along to my boys, though I wonder if it's possible not to pass such feelings down the generations.

My childhood was not idyllic. In fact, it was the stuff of which nightmares are made. I am now trying to mend fences with my kids and my world. But I still hate The Holidays.

The atmospere and frenzy has been building for the last couple of weeks at work. Things are normally hectic at this time of year, but the state of the economy, the rising cost of everything and the rising sense of desperation on the part of families that were marginalized before the stock market started swirling the bowl have compounded the situation.

We generally make referrals to emergency food daily, sometimes as often as 5 or more times daily, especially at the end of the month. At one point this week, every single phone line (5) at the food bank was in use as we scrambled to get families the help they need.

And it's only going to get worse as it gets colder.

And on that happy note, I invite you to join me in spreading a little holiday cheer to those who are less fortunate. All of us have the means. Here are a few things that you can do:

Knit (or crochet, or sew) something warm (hat, scarf, pair of mittens) and donate it. Not sure where? People in shelters, people eating in soup kitchens, children in school in less affluent poor neighborhoods, daycare centers that serve "working poor" families. Even one warm garment is one less cold person. If you aren't sure where those might be, call your local school district, your county Children and Youth (or equivalent), the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. They can direct you.

Don't knit? Buy one and donate it. The Tree has warm stuff for a buck. Can you afford a buck?

Donate some food (or cash) to your regional food bank or to an emergency pantry. Don't know where that might be? Feeding America can put you in touch with folks who can put you in touch.

Volunteer. Offer your assistance at a soup kitchen or pantry. The volunteer base in many organizations is aging. They need "fresh meat" (bad, bad pun). Be willing to help when you are needed (it's not likely that it will be Thanksgiving or Christmas--those helpers were lined up months ago). But your assistance will be welcomed. If you encounter the rare agency that is well-staffed, don't give up. Try another. You are needed! People need to eat every day!

And here's something you can do from the comfort of your home with something you probably have right at your fingertips. It will cost you only a 42 cent postage stamp and the last holiday card in the box.

Holiday cards for Recovering American Soldiers should be mailed to:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD. 20791-5456

All cards must be postmarked no later than Dec. 10.

You can find more information here.


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Today was the Scouting for Food drive here locally. I set my bag out with mostly canned meat products in it. It sat on the porch all day and no Scout came near it to collect it. I saw a forlorn bag on a neighbor's porch as well. It bugs me that the Scouts can drop off the bag but can't come back a week later to get the donation. I try to help but ... This is not the first time this has happened. The Girl Scouts are just as bad when they ask for toiletries for the shelters. I bag them up, set them out and at the end of the day bring them back in. But, funny enough, two local charities can find their way to my porch when I promise them a donation for their thrift shops. Guess who gets my stuff?
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