A Spirit of Giving

It really is the most wonderful time of the year

By Ralph Hardin Editor’s Commentary

I usually try to keep my opinions off the front page. There’s plenty of space on the opinion page or “Text the Times” for that sort of thing. But it’s Thanksgiving, so why not shake things up a little. There’s news on the inside, I swear. Thanksgiving is here, and for most of us, that’s also the real kick-off to the Christmas season. In fact, I’ve already seen Christmas lights up in my neighborhood. We haven’t gotten that far at home yet, but we did make “salt-dough” Christmas ornaments. It was something my Mom did with us when were kids. They look like cookies, but you can’t eat ‘em. Instead, you paint them and put them on the tree. The recipe is on the Internet if you want to give it a shot. And Thanksgiving isn’t just for Thursdays anymore. The way it works nowadays for many is a four-day cycle of eat-sleep-shop-repeat. Maybe throw in some football for good measure. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for, even here in Crittenden County, where we’re not the richest folks around, and there are plenty of problems in the community, but as Hank Williams once sang, “But we’re still a-livin’, so everything’s okay.” Or maybe Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” is a little more appropriate for some? One of my favorite things about this time of year is how, more than any other time, the community really seems to come together to help out those less fortunate. There are so many Thanksgiving meals being held today, for free, for folks who might otherwise not have a holiday dinner. The 8th Street Mission immediately comes to mind. The City of Sunset is having a community dinner today as well. I’m sure there are others. Several groups have taken the initiative to provide free turkeys and other grocery items to needy families. I’ve seen boxes and boxes of food headed to homes where food is scarce. And already, there are sweater drives and coat giveaways and toy drives. I will never hesitate to promote CASA’s Operation Santa for area foster children. I’m sure the smiling, bell-ringing fellow from the Salvation Army will be outside Walmart any day now. If you can give, then give. If you’re in need, don’t be ashamed to take what is being offered. If you are going to give, give to whoever or whatever you want, but I’d like to suggest a local organization. It doesn’t matter which one, but not only does a local donation mean the money stays here, there’s a much better chance of more of your donation actually being put toward the cause. My Sunday school class decided to “adopt” a family for Christmas. There are four children in the family and we’re going to do our best to give them a Merry Christmas. I was happy to chip in $100 from our family. Well, I’ll be honest and say I was happy to chip in $50 from our family and after a stern head-nod from my wife, I added another $50. Others gave the same or more or less or didn’t give. That’s not really the point of telling you this. Here’s the point: We all looked at the children’s “wish lists” and decided that rather than divvying up the items, we’d just give all the money to one person who could then do all the shopping. I would have happily volunteered. I love Christmas shopping, especially for toys. But the list included things like clothes and shoes and such, and I have been officially barred by my wife from buying other people clothes since around 1998 or so. The last straw was when I, without a bit of irony, bought my wife an outfit consisting of a pair of fuzzy red pants and a T-shirt that said “You Go Girl … and Sin No More.” I thought it was cute. She thought it was a joke … and now I just buy gift cards. Oh, right — the point. As we were deciding who would do the shopping, one man in our class spoke up. I won’t mention his name, because I doubt he cares about the recognition, but he told us that he and his siblings were raised by their Dad, and every year their church would chip in and make sure the kids were taken care of at Christmas. What some might have thought of as a chore, he saw as an opportunity to give back in a way for a kindness that was paid to him. And that is the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

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