”I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”

– Psalm 37:25

Some members of our staff really love reading the letters to Santa from area children we receive to run in the paper. Some of those letters are quite heartbreaking, though.

There are kids who just want their parents to stop fighting. There are kids who just want enough food to eat or a place to call home. For them, Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of the year.

Those kinds of letters make me think how we can take for granted many of the things that others have to do without or struggle to provide for their families. I am thankful for those things and know that I’m blessed, but I’m not down-on-my-knees, from-the-depths-of-my-soul thankful because having enough food or having a roof over my head has been the norm for me and, if I’m being honest with myself, is the way I expect it to be.

I need to be better about naming my blessings one by one, as the hymn “Count Your Blessings” says. I need to be better about being truly and deeply thankful. Some of you have gone through hard times and really cherish every small thing. It makes me think of stories of those who lived through the Great Depression or have lived through the world wars who would take sugar packets from restaurants because they know what it is like to have to do without or have such things be rationed. (Not saying we should follow that example, only that we should see such examples as reasons to be grateful for the abundance we have.)

Those letters also make me think how sad it is that many, of their own choosing, don’t have a church family. One of the reasons we’re commanded in the Bible to gather together in congregations is to take care of each other. Yes, sometimes those in need in the church don’t let others know they are in need because of pride, but when we know there is a need, we fill it. I don’t know how many of those who beg for food on street corners or have children who write about not having food are members of congregations, but I can’t imagine them not having their needs met if they are.

One of the commands given to those who consider ourselves to be Christians is to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” And it’s much easier to do good to those who you trust to not abuse that good.

However, that’s not always possible if you are trying to help people in need. Some are going to take advantage of your kindness. Some are going to take it and twist it to do things that hurt themselves of their families instead of help. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

That’s the third thing those letters make me think about: Are we trying hard enough? I know that I’m not, and I want to change that by at least attempting to present some things, some opportunities this coming year that give all of us a chance to help. Some of you do a great job with things like the Angel Tree programs, and I would love to receive suggestions from you on ways that others can help that this newspaper can promote and participate in.

One of the things I want to offer now is bringing back the food collection that The Daily Citizen was doing for schools’ Backpack for Kids programs. We parked those efforts because of COVID-19, but we want to start collecting food from you again, so that we can help those schools feed hungry children and their families. You can drop off non-perishable food items beginning Jan. 3. (We’ll publish an advertisement before then with examples of items you can contribute.)

Another suggestion I have concerns the police departments in Searcy and Beebe. We ran stories leading into the holidays about both making efforts to provide Christmas presents for kids who would otherwise not have any. Even though Searcy Police Chief Steve Hernandez said that this is something his department does to give back to the community, that doesn’t mean the community can’t chip in.

I want to encourage you to go by the police department in your city during this holiday break and hand them a donation to go toward next year’s Christmas presents. I know all of us are dealing with the challenges of inflation, but it doesn’t have to be a large amount of money. If a lot of us just give a little, it can add up to more families being helped next year by those efforts.

While some of those letters we received are really heartbreaking, it might be more heartbreaking if we choose to do nothing about it. We have opportunities to help our community and it would be easy to let things like the coronavirus continue to sideline our good intentions. Let’s not let the spirit of Christmas fade until next Christmas when we receive more heartbreaking letters to make us think of those in need.

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