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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Service shouldn't end when Christmas does

By Kathryn Kemp

December 15, 2006 | It's that time of year again. Christmas trees go up, lights are hung from the roof, carols are played on the radio and people open their hearts and share with those in need. But a Christmas service project is not enough. We should be doing more.

I love the service people do at Christmas time. Sub-for-Santa, Toys for Tots, The Angel Tree, doorbell ditchers bringing gifts and goodies, and all of it to give people in need the things they cannot afford for themselves or their families. There's no other time of year that stirs the emotions and prompts us to serve the way the holiday season does.

With Christmas-time service we get immediate satisfaction. We can see the results of our efforts and can be proud because we know we made a difference. It's not selfish, it's natural to want to that feeling. It's always easier to do something when we can see the outcome. But too many times we stop there when we shouldn't. Many of the recipients of these precious Christmas gifts need help more than once a year.

The single, working mother of three doesn't stop needing food for her family just because Christmas is over. The lonely elderly woman doesn't stop needing friends after Santa has come and gone. The poor child doesn't stop needing clothes that fit. And even with a new coat a homeless man still needs a place to sleep.

So why don't we do Sub-for-Cupid or the Easter Bunny? Why don't doorbell ditchers leave food and money on the steps in the summer? Why is there no Fourth of July Tree? Why can't we just take care of our fellow human beings, no matter what time of year it is?

There are people in this world living in poverty and suffering in many ways because of it. They need so much more than what they get at Christmas time, and we have the ability to give at least some of that to them.

It's harder to do because one box of food and clothes or one envelope of money helps, but it doesn't solve the problem. We don't necessarily see results the way we do at Christmas when we give away a sack of toys. It's easy to justify not doing something when we can't see what kind of a difference it will make. Easy, but not always right.

Gandhi said it's the action, not the fruit of the action that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action." We can't stop serving just because we don't know for sure how it would help.

I know a mother and daughter who collect aluminum pop cans, recycle them and use the money for humanitarian aid. What an amazing example. It takes a lot of cans to get a little bit of money, and who knows what difference those cans really make? The mother and daughter probably don't. They don't even know the people they're sending this money to. But somehow they love them. And because they love them, they serve them. It doesn't matter where they are, what time of year it is, or how big of a difference it really made in the big scheme of things. All that matters is they did something.

It's that simple.

We don't have to change the world but we can certainly improve the way some people have to live in it. If we did the same amount of service throughout the year as we did at Christmas, think of how many people would be helped and how much more they would get. All we need to do is go that extra mile.

This year worry less about results and more about doing whatever small thing we can, whether we see the outcome or not. Let's care about the people in the world enough to do service even after the Christmas decorations have been boxed up.


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