This is the time of year we wish for peace on earth and good will to men. Sometimes, though, we lose sight of the spirit of the season. It’s easy to get swept up by the humbuggery and consumerism that are part and parcel of the modern American Christmas.
That wasn’t a problem for me this year. I have a giant reminder of the Christmas spirit of generosity right across the street. A 20-foot tall Rudolph and sleigh appeared overnight in an empty parking lot with signs asking neighbors to drop off blankets for the homeless.
Portland, Oregon's Pearl District is an area of pricy condos and chi chi shops and restaurants. But it sits right next to Old Town, the historic skid row, so poverty and extreme need are never far out of sight, or out of mind.
According to KATU Channel 2, Frank Mabry made the wooden figure two years ago as a Trojan horse for an art museum exhibit, but now it has morphed into a reindeer with a mission: Shine a spotlight on homelessness.
When interviewed recently he said: “I was out till 2 a.m. last night and you'd be surprised how many people do not have enough or have none at all.” So far, Mabry has collected 150 blankets, and has arranged for the reindeer to stay up through New Year's Day so more donations are expected.
Of course, it isn't just us modern folks who have to remind ourselves to be generous during this holiday. In 1883, Dickens published A Christmas Carol as a newspaper serial in England and it became an immediate hit. Even then, his nostalgic look at traditional Christmas values served to remind folks to enlarge their pinched hearts through expressions of love and kindness.
Would you like to finish out 2013 on a holiday high? Here are some ideas of how to get in the spirit:
1. Go back to your childhood favorites, like the 1930’s classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
2. Shop til you drop, but not just for friends and family. Remember the poor in our midst with a check to your favorite charity. (Just in time to count as another tax deduction!)
3. No money? Give the gift of time, as a volunteer box packer at a food pantry or food delivery driver for an organization that feeds the home-bound.
4. No time or money? Look around your home and see if you have extra items that a needy person might put to good use. Extra canned food? Extra clothing? Extra household appliances? Extra personal hygiene items? Many shelters would be glad to have these donations for their clients.
5. No “things” to donate? Maybe you’ve got intangibles like extra vacation time or frequent flyer miles that you know you’ll never use. See if your employer or airline has a program that allows you to donate hours, points, or miles to folks experiencing extreme hardship.
6. Remember: You can make a difference in someone's day just by being a nurse. Way to go!
Wishing you the spirit of light, joy, and warmth today and all through 2014.
Jebra Turner is a freelance health and business writer in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her online at www.jebra.com.