A case for giving that goes beyond the gifts!

The following piece was printed in the “Another Voice” column in the Sunday, December 11, 2011 edition of The Buffalo News.


The holidays are always a magical time. Our desire to share and to help is perhaps stronger than at any other time of the year. And there are ample opportunities for us to satisfy that need.

Every year we see major drives for donations to food banks, shelters and soup kitchens. And every year, our community steps up with gifts of time, food and clothing, resources and, of course, dollars.

While the call during the holiday season is louder and our urge to answer it is stronger, I can never seem to forget that the need is as big year-round, not just at the holidays.

For the most part, there are probably no more hungry families this month than there were last month or last summer. There are probably as many kids who needed coats and mittens yesterday as there will be tomorrow.

The lines at soup kitchens will be just as long next month as they were today. The need for a safe, warm place to pass the night will be just as important in March as it is tonight.

Organizations smartly use the holidays to stock their shelves and balance their budgets. They depend on the holidays for that extra lift into our hearts and checkbooks.

With our help, the holidays will be that much better for those in need. And, with our help, there will be more aid for them in the months ahead.

But we need to remember two things. The need comes not just at the holidays — it’s there 365 days a year. And the fact that folks are cold and hungry is not the problem; it’s actually a symptom of a much larger issue: what brought them to this point in the first place. Solve that and we solve everything.

Of course it’s not that simple. There are as many reasons for people not being able to effectively feed or clothe themselves as there are people who need feeding and clothing.

Education, job training, counseling and other supports will help get them over the hurdle. Love, friendship and community will keep them there. An ounce of prevention is much more critical than our pound of cure.

So please join your friends and neighbors this holiday season in supporting the many good community organizations that work selflessly to help the less fortunate. But let’s see what we can do to make the momentum last all year.

Let’s see what we can do in January and February to keep people from being hungry in the first place. And let’s see what we can do in March and April to give them the tools to take care of themselves better.

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” It couldn’t be more true.

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