It’s far too easy to get caught up in all the fuss of the holiday season. In what is marketed as the most joyful time of the year, many of us just feel exhausted. Between the flurry of last minute shopping trips, the rush to get out Christmas cards, the stress of travel, or the hustle to make the house ready for out-of-town guests, is it any surprise that we become consumed by expectations, demands, and the pure saturation of things?
The worry that the Christmas season is too materialistic is far from new, but feels newly relevant every year. This year especially, with Facebook newsfeeds brimming with negativity, and TV news headlines filled with partisan striving in Washington, we feel not just physically, but emotionally exhausted. Where, in this type of atmosphere, can we find a source of renewing, genuine, and unselfish joy?
Luckily, we don’t have to look far outside our own communities.
That’s because we were ranked the most charitable nation in the world in a 2016 report, with our neighbors and friends giving more to charity than any other country. We out-donate Britain and Canada 2-1, and other countries like Italy and Germany 20-1. More than half of every single income class (except those earning less than $25,000) donate to charity. This is no accident, it’s part of our national identity. The instinct to reach out our hand to those less fortunate than ourselves is an enduring, basic goodness of the American people.
In my experience, the people of Southern Ohio understand that charitable giving isn’t just about opening our wallets, it’s often donating our time, time we can be so reluctant to give up. But the best part of volunteering is that it gets us out into our own communities, addressing the problems affecting our neighbors at a ground-level. It is personal, it is meaningful, and it brings joy to others just as we find, to our own surprise, that it brings joy to us.
Local, responsive, and understanding – it’s no surprise that Americans choose charities over government agencies to solve the nation’s social problems – by a margin of 47% to 32%.
I’m proud of our nation. I’m proud to live in a country that, despite our political differences and the challenges we face, still places a high priority on helping out our neighbors and giving to those less fortunate. We’re far from perfect. The media often paints a dark portrait of the world we live in, and unfortunately, it can be accurate. And while we prepare for this reality, we’ve still managed not to lose sight of the decency, kindness, and humanity of so many of our fellow citizens. We’ve found sustained joy in the small, scattered acts of kindness and generosity that, together, form a larger part of our national identity. Yes, I’m proud to live in a country that cares.
This week, no matter how you and your family celebrate the holidays, I hope you will take a moment to celebrate the spirit of giving that is so central to this season – to remember those who are serving our country, to serve those who are needy or sick, to be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy as a nation, to bring joy to those around you, and to be thankful for our loved ones.
This season and every season, let’s each do our part to carry on our legacy as a nation that gives.