The True Meaning of Holidays

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By David Golbert

I was pleased to see some major retailers closed on Thanksgiving Day and I celebrated Black Friday by spending time with family and relaxing at home—not off on a quest to score bargains on big screen TVs or the latest electronic gadget. When did America start to believe that holidays meant shop ’til you drop?

The truth is there’s nothing of real value sold in stores. Happiness doesn’t come wrapped in gaudy paper. I told my family years ago that I didn’t need another tie, or shirt, or sweater, or electronic whatever…if they felt the urge to open their wallets, I asked them to make a donation to charity—any charity of their choosing. That’s the gift I appreciate most.

In this age of consumerism gone mad, the number of families living in poverty, living without the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, is higher than ever before. In the midst of great affluence is great need. There are children without warm coats, parents who can’t afford to buy enough food to feed their families, seniors who live on one meal a day and homeless veterans who suffer from mental and physical anguish that most of us find hard to imagine.

Fortunately, there are many generous people who realize that “love thy neighbor” is more than just a slogan. Most of my friends, neighbors and business associates know that I do volunteer work for The INN, which provides food, clothing, shelter and support services to Long Islanders in need through its network of 14 soup kitchens, emergency shelters and long-term housing sites. In recent weeks, I have received many generous donations for The INN—sometimes more than $1,000, many for $100 or $50.

Yet, the most generous donations I received this year were from two secretaries who work for one of my customers. When I saw them last week, I wished them a Happy Thanksgiving and one of them said she wanted to do something to help others, opened her wallet and gave me a ten-dollar bill. The other secretary opened her purse and counted out four singles and four quarters. She started to apologize for giving such a small amount, but I told her that every dollar counts and that I would match her donation, making it worth double.

These two women, of modest means, who undoubtedly live paycheck to paycheck, knew that real joy comes from helping others and they wanted to be part of that. As the sages remind us, “Blessed are those who share with those who have less.”

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