Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Tis the season. Halloween is over (a form of charity as treats are given freely to those who ask, a.k.a. “Trick or Treaters”), and Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, as well as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Las Posadas and more. It seems like most cultures have some kind of holiday to recognize the coming of winter, the end of the year, and the success of the harvest.
And, tis the season of charity.
Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday. I often say, tongue in cheek, that it’s nice that we remember the one day we were decent to the native people before the war began. The reality, though, is that the charity was towards the settlers, not the other way around. Oh, maybe the first meal might have invited local Native Americans to the table, but the table could only have been set with the help of the Native people.
See, the Native Americans had the strength to push the settlers back off of the land if they had the desire to do so. Instead, they welcomed to their land, and invited them to stay. They probably didn’t understand the ways of the settlers, since they tended to be a mobile society, so building permanent dwellings must have seemed an odd thing. What’s more, it’s the Native people who helped the settlers with their earliest crops. The Native Americans thought of it as “giving back to Mother Earth”, but when settlers were having trouble growing their crops, the Native Americans taught them to bury fish heads with the corn stalks, which then acted to fertilize the crops. These were all charitable acts.
Today we see Salvation Army Santas ringing bells by pots reminding us to donate money, churches and civil groups opening their doors to invite homeless and those without families to share Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, and canned food drives. These are all wonderful things, but when I see them, I can’t help but feel a little blue.
It gets me down because it’s a reminder that we are still living in a society of excess, with people who don’t have enough to eat, the clothes to keep warm, or the facilities to keep the rain off of them. I’m not about to suggest that anybody refuse to enjoy that which they’ve built and earned, or that we all walk around whaling and beating our chests in agony for the less fortunate, yet at the same time, I think we all should keep fresh, in the back of our mind, the fact that there are people who have to make the choice between eating rotting food from a garbage bin, or sleeping on it for the heat it releases. We should remember that there are people making the choice between food for their family, or medicine to keep their children’s parents alive. The holiday season is a great way for collection of goods for the less fortunate, but I believe we should try to do a little better at spreading this charity out for the remainder of the year as well.
It also makes me blue to realize that, as a society, we continue to elect leaders who seem to be anything but charitable. It bothers me that our political leaders cut great programs like food on wheels in favor of lower taxes for those who don’t need it. It bothers me that we spend money to wage war but turn our backs on the refuges that war creates. It bothers me that as a society we spend more money on military than the next seven closest nations combined but do not spend enough on education to be in the top spot.
Enjoy your holiday season. Feel the warmth of your loved ones, the comradery, the joy of family. I wish all of these blessings to you this holiday season and so much more. But I hope we can find a way to do better to think of others outside of the holiday season, as well as within the depths of it. I hope that we start voting with our hearts, electing those who reflect our values as a society, in recognition that the values of those we elect are taken to be the values in the hearts of all of us. And I pray, I truly pray, that I am right in assuming that most Americans are charitable in their hearts, here in the US and for those outside of it. The America I want to live in is an America of compassion, intelligence, and concern for others.