It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times

This columnist examines the challenges that may arise for some during this busy holiday season, while demonstrating how the spirit of giving blesses not only the recipient, but also the giver

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities)

Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set the scene for his famous novel recounting one of the most important, most turbulent and horrific times in world history: the French Revolution (1789-1799). The disparity between the haves and the have-nots of that era was reprehensible.

I don't intend to turn this small space I'm allotted each week into a lesson in World History. My reason for using this historical reference is merely to segue to my theme for this week.

Today, in this country of abundance, it is the best of times; it is the worst of times. The chasm between those who have more-than-enough and those who are in need still exists as it did in the times so eloquently described by Dickens and; for reasons far too vast and complex to expound upon here, it always will. Poverty and need are not new phenomena, nor are they fleeting.

In today's unstable economic climate with the unemployment rate soaring to unprecedented levels in many regions; the number of those forced to seek some type of financial assistance is growing exponentially. Many communities are reporting that resources are at all time lows; their funding and food supplies depleted due to the ever-increasing demand.

Not to be overlooked are the many who struggle with loneliness, depression and the like; problems exacerbated during the holiday season due to unrealistic expectations and increased levels of stress. Those who have experienced the death of a loved one over the past year may have increased feelings of loss, possibly even anxiety, during this time. Some are unable to be with family during the holidays. Others may have no family – destined to spend the holidays in isolation.

Not only are poverty and need manifested through the lack of the tangible – the material, but they are also played out, perhaps to an even greater extent, in the arena of the spiritual and the emotional as well.

But there is hope!

Easton is blessed with a wealth of resources to assist those who have fallen upon hard times. Local houses of worship of all faiths and denominations are equipped to provide aide and comfort, both materially and spiritually, to those in need.

The Easton Food Pantry has recently been restocked with food and supplies by generous donations from local organizations including The Easton Women of Today and The Easton Lions Club.

My Brother's Keeper is in full swing year round, delivering emergency food furniture and household items to those in need. Their Christmas program, which began in 1991, has grown from serving 14 Brockton families that year, to serving 2,262 families in 60 communities in 2009.

My Brother's Keeper could not do the wonderful work they do without the vast number of sponsors and volunteers who generously donate their time to this noble cause. This time of year is a great opportunity to participate in the spirit of giving by making a donation of toys, clothing, food, or perhaps more importantly – your time.

As I write this piece, volunteers are busily wrapping gifts at the My Brother's Keeper facility on Route 138 in Easton. This is a great way to serve your community. You'll need no special skills - no special training; the only requirement is a heart for others. In a culture so focused on 'what's in it for me'; this provides a great opportunity to teach your children what the spirit of Christmas is all about – giving – and it will cost you nothing more than a little bit of your time.

Those who have volunteered at My Brother's Keeper can testify to the fact that what you take away from this experience is at least equal to, if not more than what you give. Knowing you've helped to put a smile on a child's face on Christmas morning, and eased the anxiety of a parent struggling to provide for their family, is one of the greatest gifts one could ever receive. If you'd like to donate your time or provide financial support for this worthy cause this Christmas season, contact My Brother's Keeper.


My Brother's Keeper Prayer

Lord . . . When I have food; help me to remember the hungry. When I lie in my bed, help me to remember those who sleep on the floor. When I have a warm home, help me to remember the homeless. When I have work, help me to remember those without jobs. When I experience the joy of giving to my children, help me to remember the agony of those who must watch their children go without. By remembering, help me to destroy my indifference and arouse my compassion. Make me concerned enough to act in your name, to help those who cry out to you for that which I so often take for granted. Amen       

This time of year provides many opportunities for service; to help those who, for whatever reason, are unable to help themselves; but need knows no season.

Whether you give out of your abundance or give sacrificially –give!

Sharon Thiel December 14, 2010 at 06:14 PM
A great reminder, Bob. I read recently that if you are living on assistance in America you are still among the top 4% of incomes in the world (!), and yet the ability to provide for the basic necessities, even here, becomes prohibitively costly every week. If we give what we can from WHATEVER we have, the blessing is truly shared by both giver and gifted :-) (On another note, every time I see that excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities it seems to fit perfectly the present moment.....all of life IS a circle, isn't it?)
Bob Havey December 14, 2010 at 10:13 PM
True, Sharon. If everyone gives a little - it becomes a lot.
Jasmine December 16, 2010 at 02:20 PM
Awesome column this week Bob! I was struggling to get in the Christmas spirit this year as I was dwelling on all the loss and not being able to be w/ my family. However I was recently reminded what CHRISTmas is truly about. You have just solidified it for me even more w/ this column. Thank You!
Frida December 16, 2010 at 08:29 PM
Ditto to what Jasmine said. Much thanks.


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