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Milt Hankins: Let's have a 'do-gooder' Christmas

Nov. 30, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

The chimes peal "O Come, O Come Immanuel." We "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly," sing "Jingle Bells" and take an angel from the gigantic, decorated blue spruce at the mall. We feel GOOD!

The Salvation Army bell-ringers greet us at the doors of gaily decorated stores. We drop in a quarter, maybe a folded one dollar bill and feel pleased with ourselves, and the next time dismissively whisper, "I've already given."

Most of us will spend Christmas morning in a cozy living room before a tree under which are many gifts for everyone to enjoy. The smell of a turkey roasting. We anticipate dressing from grandmother's prized recipe and a repeat of the cranberry salad we've made a once-a-year specialty since clipping it from Southern Living.

It's a joyous time!

Most of us will give little thought to those people for whom Christmas is just another day to eke out a sparse living and dining on meager fare. Oh, I'm not laying blame or being accusative. I'm among "the most of us." Busted.

I was thinking to myself just the other day, when I was struggling to figure out what I might buy my wife for Christmas, perhaps a new watch, jewelry, perfume. Definitely not a kitchen gadget. Maybe I'd suggest, "Let's not exchange gifts this year. Let's do what our Jewish friends do -- go out for Chinese and take in a movie!"

I don't think it will work. Not for us.

But, what will work for us? Hmmmm.

We might start with a renewing of our minds concerning what the season is all about. It's really not about ourselves at all. It's not about how many gifts we receive. It's not about elaborate decorations, caroling, concerts and customs. It's a time to think about others -- other people. People who are seeking respite from the cold, a warm meal, a scrounged coat or blanket, enough money to buy heating fuel, struggling to stay alive.

Oops, I'm sounding like a "do-gooder."

Could that be it? That's the answer! It's the season for "paying it forward," easing burdens and doing some good for someone in need. A good word, a good deed -- without patting ourselves on the back for having done something good.

As strange as it may sound to some people, by his life Jesus demonstrated that it's a good thing to be a "do-gooder." I'm wondering what would happen if everyone who reads this column could unselfishly forfeit some Christmas comfort for the sake of someone else. Anyone else, but preferably someone who is homeless, cold, hungry and destitute.

Is it asking too much that we all be a "do-gooder" for a day or two this year? It doesn't have to be a religious thing, and certainly not a political thing. It can be a simple do-good thing without even feeling good about ourselves for having done it.

The child we celebrate at Christmas later said, "As you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me."

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.



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