I have been quite fortunate to receive an amazing education during my lifetime, beginning with my elementary, junior high, and high school years. My teachers instructed me to ask questions before blindly accepting or following any idea or philosophy or group. They taught me how to use the process of critical thinking. It has sometimes been both a blessing and a curse to approach the world with objectivity. As my mother often noted, ignorance can be bliss. My choice has been to research, challenge, weigh pros and cons and base my conclusions on a willingness to learn about opposing views. Thanks to the influence of my teachers I continually seek understanding of different ways of living and thinking.
There is a movement in my beloved country known as America First. This philosophy certainly has merit in that we have many individuals in the United States who are suffering and need assistance from those of us who have more than we really need. As with a family unit, we have to take care of our own and not place them in danger because we foolishly give away help that we cannot afford, but I also believe that we do indeed have enough plenty to share with people across the globe who are longing for the freedoms and opportunities that we so often take for granted. We may be a kind of island unto ourselves, but we have enough wealth and hopefully compassion to share.
I have been greatly inspired by a local doctor who created a vaccine for Covid that does not require refrigeration like the ones that most of us have received. This new vaccine makes it possible to bring immunization to even the most remote areas. The inventor of this miracle, Dr. Peter Hotez, might have become enormously wealthy by selling his vaccine, but instead he gave away the formula to any country that wanted to have an inexpensive and easy to use vaccine for its citizens. At this moment millions of people around the globe have benefited from Dr. Hotez’ largess.
I have not forgotten the people of Ukraine during the many months that they have endured a war that was forced upon them by Russia. Winter will be long and difficult for them. Russia has destroyed much of their infrastructure leaving then without heat, water and or electricity. Some here in America complain that money sent to them by the United States might be better spent on people here in our own country. I beg to differ. We cannot abandon the people here, but it would also be a travesty to cease helping Ukraine when the souls there are freezing and starving in hopes of defending their freedom. We can cinch up our own belts just a bit and find the funds to send aid.
I remember when we had the horrific floods of Hurricane Harvey here in the Houston area. There were people from every state in the union and places across the globe sending contributions to help those whose homes had been destroyed. I was comforted to be reminded that we humans come together in times of great need. There are always heroes who ignore borders and allegiances to help the afflicted.
I have exchanged gifts with my dear friend, Linda, for years. Last Christmas she pointed out that we both have all that we need and suggested that instead of giving to each other, we choose a charity to support in one another’s names. I loved that idea and we plan to do the same thing again this year. There is so much need that I am having a difficult time deciding which group to choose, but I feel so good about being able to do this. I have the wherewithal to be generous, something that my mother did in spite of being poor in every sense of the legal definition.
Upon my mother’s death we found thank you notes from dozens of organizations to whom she had sent donations. While she often turned off her heat in the winter to save money, she eagerly gave to the children at St. Jude’s Hospital. She may have eaten thin soups to save on her grocery bill but she regularly gave money to missions, Habitat for Humanity, soup kitchens. She owned her home and felt great compassion for the homeless. She often spoke of her mother providing food to people who came seeking sustenance during the Great Depression. She understood so clearly that each of us has something to give even when we have very little.
At this time of year I always count my many blessings, among them the wonderful education that I received that has led me to meaningful work and enough income to live better than most people in the world. I try to remember those who have not been as fortunate as I am and I believe that it is our moral duty to help them wherever they may be, rather than seeing them as a problem that we must remove.
I think of the power that we each have if we were to change just one tiny habit of indulging ourselves and instead use those funds to help our brothers and sisters all over the world and even in our own backyard. The power of such a movement would be enormous and would also bring us together in the kind of love that was born on the first Christmas morn. I pray that we will come to our senses and come together in understanding and generosity in the coming year. That is what the true meaning of Christmas should be.