While most of us think of this time of year as a time of giving, this year more than ever we may find our friends, neighbors and even whole communities need a little more care.
Many communities are still feeling the effects of the pandemic. All of us were touched in some way by COVID-19, the isolation that occurred with stay-at-home orders, efforts to keep ourselves or loved ones safe, and the impact local businesses felt due to closures or staff shortages. Last year COVID-19 also meant many of us hosted smaller family gatherings over the holidays, and some families cancelled entirely.
This year looks a little different and I hope a lot brighter, as we consider the risk with the increased availability of vaccines, and balance that with our need to see and spend time with the people we love.
As I reflect on the holiday season before us it seems more important than ever to focus on what is truly important, giving back, giving to those in need, and reaching out in ways that don’t cost us any more than our time and attention.
The annual Colorado Gives Day is Dec. 7 and inspires thousands to give money in support of local nonprofit organizations who serve our communities. We can also support local food banks that literally kept food on the table last year for thousands of area families who otherwise might have gone hungry. Organizations like Family Tree, Morgan’s Place, Ralston House, the Jeffco Action Center, and others continue to provide resources, household items, and counseling, in addition to access to food and clothing.
Operation Blue Santa was in full swing at Lakeside Walmart the Saturday after Thanksgiving with toy donations to the Wheat Ridge Optimists for distribution to local families who can’t afford gifts from Santa by the Wheat Ridge Police Department Crime Prevention team in mid-December. Thank you to everyone who came out and added a toy to the patrol cars. There are still many toy and gift drives around the metro area if you want to make the holidays a little brighter for a child.
Consider volunteering and lending your time instead of donating. Soup kitchens, clothing drives, the annual bell ringers collecting donations at area grocery stores, shoveling a neighbor’s drive or sidewalk, making an extra pie to deliver to a senior or disabled neighbor are all ways to make a difference in our community.
All the holidays resonate with giving and of communities coming together. Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration of African Americans’ ancestral roots that starts Dec. 26 and is focused on seven principles. The one that resonated the most for me is the third, Ujima, which symbolizes collective work and responsibility, “To build and maintain the community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems, and to solve them together.”
Another holiday celebrated this season and based in joy and love is Hanukkah. Starting this year on Nov. 28, Hanukkah is one of the most highly anticipated and joyous Jewish festivals of the entire year and honors the miracle of the temple’s menorah burning brightly for eight full days. The “festival of lights” is celebrated with the lighting each evening of the candles on a menorah, special prayers, and fried foods. Messages from that celebration include one of doing good, “Always increase in matters of goodness, a single flame was good enough for yesterday, but today needs to be even better.”
And finally, for Christians, this season culminates with Christmas and the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25. It is also a time when we surround ourselves with the warmth and love of our friends and families. Celebrating Christmas for my family also means sharing love for others – “Peace on earth, good will toward men and women.”
No matter how you choose to give back this year or what your plans are to ring in the season, my wife Mary and I wish all of you peace, love, health and the restoration of our spirit that comes with spending time with those we cherish. The happiest of holidays to you all.
Contact Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker at 303-235-2800 or firstname.lastname@example.org