I have mixed feelings about the end of year holiday season. I love the expressions of thanks and gratitude that people are encouraged to make, the way people think about how to make others happy, the gatherings of family and friends, the food, the festive decorations.
I particularly look forward to spending time with my family: cooking and eating together, sipping wine and talking late into the night, running through my brother’s neighborhood in the cold mornings listening to old favorites on my iPod, reading to my nephew before bed, starting a new knitting project with my niece.
Yet, this time of year I am also constantly reminded of how fortunate I am. On these short, cold days I shiver uncomfortably when I see homeless people bundled in sleeping bags under a bridge as I drive past in my heated car. I remember some of my former middle and high school students who, over winter vacation, had one less warm meal to look forward to every day. I think about the story I heard on the radio about people begging online for gifts of clothing or toys for their children this year.
In the short term, I try to do things that will make a small difference with donations of time or money to the Oregon Food Bank, the School BackPack Program or other worthy charities and services for people in need.
I also focus on my work preparing teachers and others who will work with young people in schools because I believe that is another way to promote change and make the world better for more people over the long term.
Of course people are not only in need over the holidays and the changes we need to make as a society won’t happen if people don’t think about them year round. Maybe if we start now, during a time of year when we are encouraged to think about others, we will continue during the rest of the year, when our daily busy-ness makes it more of a challenge.