Friday, December 11, 2009
By Tami Casey
A volunteer ringing a bell for charity is as much a part of the American Christmas experience as cookies and lights. But this year, the fear is that people are tapped out, worn down and will be giving less.
Charities and the holiday season seem to go hand-in-hand. While nearly 20 Christmases have passed, I still recall my first Christmas as an adult volunteer at a charity in a small community. My first child was barely a month old and I had signed up to help out at the community holiday drive, which offered assistance to those who had fallen on hard times.
I vividly remember a forlorn young mother shyly approaching the table to receive groceries for a holiday dinner. She was nervous, as this was her first time receiving assistance and she wasn’t sure what to expect. As I handed her the bag of food she smiled graciously, but when I handed her the gifts for her children, the tears started to roll down her face. It had been a hard year for her, she said. She’d lost her job and was struggling to pay rent and keep the family fed and didn’t think there would be any gifts that year. To her, this was a miracle made possible by a charity (and the efforts of strangers) in her time of need.
For me, the best part of that day was finding my own joy in hers. Although its been 20 years, the “gift” I received from that experience will last a lifetime, and since then I’ve found many opportunities to volunteer and help others.
2009 has been a hard year all around, but I hope we’ll all dig a little deeper into our pockets this holiday season and add another name to the gift list—maybe a teen in a shelter or a family in need. Also consider another gift – give a bit of yourself and consider signing up as a volunteer. To find volunteer opportunities near you, call or visit www.1-800-volunteer.org
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