The story is told of two friends, one of whom says, “I’d like to ask God why he allows poverty, hunger and injustice when he could do something about it.” To which the other responds, “Me, too, but I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”
And so as we’re pushed by pressures both familial and commercial to open our wallets and buy things for folks who may not really need those things, as we catch ourselves ready to dive headlong into the holiday frenzy, we pause to wonder if maybe there is something we can do for those who have real need.
It may help to remember that the explicit reason for this holiday is the Christ child, whose life and death was so remarkable that we mark the passage of time itself from the year of his birth, some 2,009 years ago now and counting. His message for us, whatever sense we can make of it, seems to center on relationship: “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Simple to state, though hard to do. And this admonition to kindness is not uniquely Christian. Many if not most of the world’s faiths would have us treat others as we would want to be treated. It’s a recognition that we are connected in some way – all of humanity – and so generosity toward others helps ourselves, too. Some traditions even make that a larger connection to include all of nature.
The least we can do is remember that there is poverty, hunger and injustice in the world – remember that, as we count our own blessings. Even better is to do something to relieve those conditions. The need in foreign lands is so great that it might seem unaffected by what any one of us can do here. But remember that we are connected, in some meaningful way. Just as we vote, when logically one vote among thousands or millions can’t possibly affect the result, so one small kindness adds with others and does have an affect, perhaps a decisive one.
The gross consumption in the U.S. continues to shock us, even in these more difficult times: America’s “holiday” excess would clothe another nation, and our leftovers would feed one, too. There is a compounding effect from reducing that excess consumption. Can we not consume so much more than we need?
Maybe families can share with each other the gift of time – the most precious gift of all. We can take an outing, and add the gift of memories. We can volunteer with one of the many local agencies of aid in the community, and give the gift of our presence to our “neighbors,” for right here in Sonoma, there are folks who are poor, who are hungry and who suffer injustice. We can donate clothing and food, if not cash, to those agencies. And we can spend what we do locally, to keep the money circulating within the Sonoma “family.”
These ideas are not our own, nor are we the first to suggest that the consumption craze be tempered. We merely add our voice to those already shouting, like the forsworn cry of Shakespeare’s MacBeth, “Hold, enough!” So if God should ask, be comforted in knowing that you are doing something, no matter how small, to help others.
Make this a safe and sane holiday season. Merry Christmas, Sonoma.