it is important to remember those who have less than we do. As we fall deeper into this quagmire that is the economic recession, more and more people find themselves in a position of uncertainty and hopelessness. I’m just going to take a guess and assume that there won’t be as many Christmas presents under the tree as there were in previous years. Many people are inspired to give because of the particular conventions of the Christmas season. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” popularized this sentiment. “A Christmas Carol” was published in 1843. It was the first piece of literature to really discuss social ills while disguising it underneath the happy exterior of a season of the year. “A Christmas Carol” has so many different interpretations, but its core message remains unchanged – it is essentially good to give and it can make us better persons. However, deeper within that, a person must give in a certain way in order to reap the benefits.
So many different people were inspired by this message that they began to create institutions that addressed the needs of the poor and less fortunate. These institutions were known as charities. Charities effectively bridged the gap between the rich and the poor and created greater stratification of class. The rich no longer had to interact with the poor, they just had to give an amount to a charity and their donation would go to a certain group of people that really needed the money. The lump sum donation did not address the need to interact with people outside one’s social circle, nor the need to volunteer one’s time to make a difference. This is called indiscriminate giving. Indiscriminate giving provides the giver a sense of comfort that they donated to help make a difference in the lives of the faceless masses of endless people who need help. It however, does not address the core issue.
The issue of charity is not only addressed in terms of monetary donations. It can be addressed in other ways too, most notably volunteering. You would be surprised the difference you can make in someone’s life by volunteering your time and presence. Where to volunteer? If you live in an urban area, there is no shortage of places you can volunteer. People will always need help – and a human presence. There is no better time to provide both, in these dark days – both literally and figuratively.
Money is temporal. Human companionship is not. Giving to charity is great and all but the giver will be missing out on the core message that was detailed in “A Christmas Carol” Ebeneezer Scrooge arrived at his revelation that he could make a difference in the lives of others through simple things such as camaraderie. He got into the Christmas spirit of generosity and he realized it made him a better person because he interacted with people he normally would not have.
If we want to reach the same revelation as Scrooge did and make our lives better, we need to too.