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Where the Spirit Is

In my last post I wrote about Christmas and the spirit of giving – a spirit that too often seems forgotten, crowded out by consumerism.  I felt that I’d said what needed to be said about the contradiction between what we see on “the beginning of the season,” Black Friday, and what the season is supposed to represent, but have since felt that I left something out.  What Christmas spirit isn’t is clear, but I want to give some examples now of what I believe it is.  In so doing, I hope some of these ideas will strike a chord with some of you out there, and that we will see more of the true spirit of the season.

Do a Google search for “volunteers+Christmas” and you’ll find no less than 85,900,000 results. Seems like a good starting point, non?  Following are some of the things you can do on Christmas or around the holidays, as well as some of the causes that have a solid and permanent place in my heart.  This, for me, is Christmas.  So here you go…

First, two volunteer projects specifically for those who want to give to children: Be an Elf, a project of the USPS, where volunteers read letters to Santa written by children in need, and when you find one (or a few) that move you, take them home, respond, and send it back with gifts:

And Operation Christmas Child, from Samaritan Purse, where you can pack a shoe box with gifts that will go to a needy child overseas.

Find a local shelter for families, or for women and children, like Access Shelter, for example,, and call to find out how you can do something for these kids for Christmas (or throughout the year.  Why wait until December every year to do something for someone else?). A three year-old boy at the shelter asked, “How will Santa know where I am? How will he find me this year?”  At Access you can “Adopt a Family,” (shelters everywhere have similar programs) and bring Christmas to them, since they have no home to go to for the holidays.

Don’t – and I mean, quite seriously do not  – go to a pet store to buy a dog or cat for your children.  Most of the time these

The severe neglect common in puppy mills

animals come from puppy mills, and spending your money there is what keeps the *&!#@! losers who run those places in business.  Instead, find an animal who has been abused or neglected (sadly, this is not hard to do) and give them a home filled with the love they deserve – the love they have been deprived of far too long.

In fact, I’ll even direct you to one right now: Black Beauty, they call her.  And she is a beauty, despite scars all over her body from, they believe, having been either set on fire or burned with acid.

This – and you’d better grab some tissues before you click play on this one – is what you can do for an animal who has been abused, neglected, or raised in a lab as a medical guinea pig:

I cried like a baby when I watched this video, (from ARME (Animal Rescue, Media, and Education) about the Beagle Freedom Project) which is both horribly disturbing and also triumphant.  This is giving.  It is selflessness.  And it is love.

This, is Christmas.

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