Charitable Opportunities Abound This Christmas!

Bell Ringer NYCWe are blessed this holiday season with endless opportunities to give to our fellow-man.  The Christmas season is typically a time of generous sharing with those “less fortunate”, but this year you could toss a stone and hit a needy person!  Seriously, you do not have to look far for a chance to brighten someone’s holiday.

Now that our state’s highest court deemed panhandling a protected activity under the 1st amendment, there is a beggar at every corner and off-ramp in the county.  We donate to them through the local soup kitchen and despite the convenience of giving at a red light, I encourage you all to find an alternative to funding substance abuse, as well.  The Salvation Army’s bell ringers are pretty easy to find, as are the charity jars in every gas station.

Congress has provided extra giving opportunities this year by cutting food assistance to over 47 million families in November, so we gave a bag of groceries to the food bank and a couple of cans of veggies at a local food drive to help offset that.  I’m confident that this need would not be filled by 10,000 bags of groceries in December, but we can all give a bit.  Most of us believe in kids eating no matter the circumstances.  While we are thinking of children, we must donate at least one gift for the Angel Tree or Toys for Tots.  With this year’s reductions in early education spending, may as well give an educational toy or game.  You get the idea.  Simply look at the day’s headlines, then apply your charity where needed.  Know someone who is unemployed?  Offer to help edit their resume or take them out to lunch.  Mail someone an anonymous Christmas/gift card.  Open the door at a store for someone.  Check that little box on your utility bill to give $2 a month to someone struggling to stay warm this winter.  Go through your closets and give away unworn coats, hats, sweaters, boots, and gloves.  Simple gifts can make a difference.  Have you ever felt uplifted by someone’s caring?  Have you felt uplifted by giving?

This is the season of giving and the opportunities are endless.

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ASPCA “Tommy P. Monahan” Kid of the Year

In Tilden, Nebraska last year Stevie Nelson’s two black Labradors went missing two days before his fifth birthday.  Stevie was heartbroken when the Labs were not found despite the best efforts of his family who even hired a pet investigator.  The family and investigator expanded their search to three states and offered a reward, but had no success in finding Stevie’s lost dogs.  This child was understandably heartbroken after his only birthday wish was not granted.

As Stevie’s sixth birthday approached he saw the saddest ad on television.  We have all seen it, the Human Society’s plea for donations which includes picture after picture of the saddest looking animals with Sarah McLachlan’s Arms of an Angel playing in the background.  I turn the channel unless I need a good cry, but this kid was so moved by the commercial that he decided instead of toys, he would request ASPCA donations for his sixth birthday.  By his birthday on March 16 Stevie had surpassed his goal of $6,000 and continued his pledge drive which has raised $28,000 to date.  A mere five-year-old took his heartbreak and turned it into charity thereby healing himself and providing instruction to others who are hurting.  This is not the first time that I learned humanity from a child and I hope it is not the last because their perspectives are not hindered by the complexities and frequent self-absorption of adulthood.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals agrees and is awarding Stevie Nelson with the “Tommy P. Monahan” Kid of the Year Award at their annual awards luncheon today.  Stevie changed his painful memory of losing his beloved pets and the new Northeast Nebraska’s Animal Shelter stands in testament to his desire to heal by helping others.  Today I am grateful for Stevie Nelson.

Matthew 11:25 – At that time Jesus made answer and said, I give praise to you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have kept these things secret from the wise and the men of learning, and have made them clear to little children.