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Take some time to earn your coal

Red, White, and Skewed

Ross Wasserstrom

Issue date: 12/4/09 Section: Opinion
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Although this column has focused on political issues, this week, I would like to address a perhaps more relevant phenomenon: Christmas. This contrived abomination we call a holiday has lost all its appreciable meaning in an orgy of commercials, sales forecasts, and carols. But I'm not talking economics.

The real bankruptcy of the past year has been one of the moral and charitable. While the most charitable people gave significantly less (about 25 percent less), the largest American charities received 20-30 percent more requests for help. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Many charities are hoping (or praying) for an astronomically high amount of donations this Christmas season since the economy has rebounded, but we, as a society, have been left exposed.

When people really need help - in the form of food drives and volunteer hours - is during the remainder of the year. There is usually enough food left over from Christmas to last a few months, but by summer many charities have bare cupboards and must start scrimping for more to hand out.

The continuing economic crisis this year has left us all feeling insecure about our financial futures, and with the passing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday last week (which have become pathetic, empty shells of holidays themselves), we are reminded of the need to spend what pitiful savings are left on low, low prices. But many people have all spent the past year feeling sorry for ourselves, and wallowing in as much greed as we could get our hands on.

If giving is indeed astronomical this year, it is only to atone for our appalling behavior in the last eleven and a half months. Acting selfishly most of the time is not absolved by making amends once in a long while. With charitable donations and volunteerism in the gutter, we should be ashamed of ourselves for neglecting problems at any other point of the year.

Instead of trying to give a little more after demanding a lot for free between January and November, those of us (myself included) should try to be more honest this holiday season, both with ourselves and each other. Instead of volunteering a few days before Christmas so we can pat ourselves on the back while opening presents, why don't we set up "savings accounts" for good deeds, and spread them out through the year.

Living up to this expectation will prove to each other that we do nice things in exchange for nothing instead of the warm, fuzzy feeling we get from volunteering at the holidays. Doing something for nothing is the definition of charity, and making yourself feel better in December is not an excuse for ignoring UNICEF in the summertime.

The holidays have long been identified as a time for false niceness and exaggeratedly magnanimous gestures, but this year, I hope we reflect for a moment on whether our good works are really sincere and really effective. If not, we can sit on the couch this December and ignore charitable work as usual. At least then we might live up to tradition.
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    posted 12/16/09 @ 12:36 PM EST

    The GIFT of LIFE?
    Was taken away from 50 million Americans. Joe Lieberman, John Boehner, how could you? What was the Final Price tag? Did it make you Wealthy Joe/John? 50 million Men Women and Children Joe, the Children Joe/John. (Continued…)

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    In This Issue

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