Generosity and Compassion
12/06/2011 03:59AM ● Published by Style
Illustration by John Stricker
Who among us doesn’t know someone hit by the economic downturn?
Friends lose jobs and can’t find new ones. Homes get foreclosed on. Structured lives revolving around kid pick-up and weekend runs to Home Depot – lives no different than our own – are thrown into unexpected disarray. It seems all that can be taken for granted these days is that nothing can be taken for granted. That, and rush hour traffic on 50 and 80 will still suck no matter how many people are out of work.
Of course, even if we haven’t been hit, we’re still affected. It’s like being in a giant dodgeball game and our teammates keep getting nailed: we can’t help but wonder if we’re next. So we count our blessings and hedge any talk of good fortune with knocks on wood. We wait for answers, and in the meantime live in an extended act of bracing ourselves.
Now here we are in another holiday season. Light displays inspired by Clark Griswold still illuminate neighborhoods. Santa still sets up shop in the Galleria at Roseville. The drab shades of winter are again splashed green and red. And it’s the one time of year all of us try a little harder to be – like the bumper sticker says – the people our dogs think we are. We are more generous, more compassionate, quicker to smile and slower to anger (unless some jackass whips into that parking spot we just spent 15 minutes looking for at The Fountains). There’s a sense of togetherness that the routines of the holidays bring, and that might be more important this year than it’s been in a long time.
Which is why I say, let’s expand on that. Let’s use the holidays not as a respite this year, but as a springboard. Right now, the shelves of food banks are full. Collection barrels are full of toys. More names disappear from the branches of the wishing tree at church every week. Generosity flows from us like Christmas music from the radio. And that’s great, unless that Christmas music is “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney (see “Tom’s Take December 2009” for my thoughts on that). But long after the lights are packed away and the last Starbucks gift card is redeemed, there will still be people in need.
Let’s not wait ’til January to resolve to turn this seasonal sense of community into something more permanent. Let’s decide to do it now. Mark it on your calendar. Put it in your smart phone. Go to Wild Bill’s and get it tattooed on your forearm. Whatever it takes. Once a month, let’s all do something for someone else. Instead of pulling back once the New Year arrives, let’s keep reaching out. We have to have each other’s backs.
Those of us who are blessed with employment, stability, good health, hey, let’s go! Commit to a food bank; a women’s shelter; a sheriff’s department toy project; an impoverished school; the family of a deployed soldier. If you don’t have the time to volunteer, donate. If you can’t donate, maybe check regularly on friends who have hit a rough patch. Heck, it could be as simple as letting that jackass have the parking spot you just spent 15 minutes searching for.
Wait. No. Screw that guy. Even generosity has its limits.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I really believe that if we can all do something, and do it regularly...if we can all maintain the spirit of this hallowed season, even after the last dried up Christmas tree is dumped on the side of Roseville Road (by the way, memo to folks who do that: Don’t Do That!), then maybe we’ll discover that some of those answers we’ve been waiting for, really and simply, begin with us.