Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, the two times of the year when Americans celebrate the bounty they have received.
Only for some, there is no bounty.
Most of you — most of us — have jobs and are doing OK. Sure, we have had to trim budgets in places, we have had to be a little more careful with what goes out and what comes in. But when we look at 10 percent unemployment, we take comfort in knowing that we are among the 90 percent who are working.
However, the 10 percent are hurting.
And the hurt becomes more severe as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.
It is an old story, captured so well by Charles Dickens in “A Christmas Carol,” the 1843 fable of redemption that makes so many of us feel good every December. In it, Dickens tells of a group of men who visited Ebenezer Scrooge and told him that “during this festive time of the year … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want for common necessities; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
Scrooge’s reply was blunt. “I can’t afford to make idle people merry.” As far as he was concerned, he paid taxes to support the welfare system, and that was all he intended to do.
The gentlemen tried to reason with Scrooge. They told the miser that because the little relief his tax money provided hardly brought the spirit of Christmas to families that were suffering, he and a few others were “endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth” during the season. But Scrooge was not moved.
The gentlemen persisted. “We choose this time of year, because it is a time, of all others, when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices.”
Not that Scrooge cared. And when he was told that some of the poor would rather die than become wards of the state, his reply rings through the ages.
“If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Now, none of us, I hope, would be so callous. However, in his response, Scrooge strips away all the excuses and rationalizations that protect so many of us from the awful truth. It is easy to pay our taxes, support our churches, drop a coin in the pot outside the grocery store door, and figure that is enough.
Today there are groups, the modern equivalents of those gentlemen who visited Scrooge, that are trying to provide the necessities and a little extra to remind those in need that someone cares.
Unfortunately, these groups, like the people they serve, are hurting. Contributions are down even as more and more seek their aid.
It’s fortunate that there is a plan floating around that may help.
It started last year ago when Carolee Levick Hazard saw a woman, Jenni Ware, leave her groceries at the checkout line. Hazard caught up with Ware in the parking lot and discovered that she could not pay for the groceries because she had left her wallet at another store. So Hazard volunteered to put the bill for the groceries — $207 — on her credit card.
As I understand it, there was no guarantee that she would get the money back, but she did, for shortly a check for $300 arrived with a note telling her to take the extra and do something nice for herself.
And that is what she did. But instead of a massage or some new shoes, she told the story on Facebook and announced that she planned to match the extra $93 and contribute $186 to the local food bank. The next day, a dozen of her friends had also made $93 pledges.
The result is the “93 Dollar Club (facebook.com/93dollarclub), which asks people to donate in increments of 93. The donations have ranged from $9,300 to $0.93 (from Hazard’s 9-year old neighbor). So far they have raised nearly $110,000 and funded more than 220,000 meals for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in California.
But we aren’t in California.
In Anniston, there is the All Saints Interfaith Center of Concern (1029 West 15th St., 36201), the Community Enabler Developer (1411 Gurnee Ave., 36201), The Salvation Army (P.O. Box 218, 36202) and Interfaith Ministries (P.O. Box 1444, 36202). In Jacksonville, there is the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center (206 Francis St. W., 36265). As for those of you in other communities, just ask at church.
So take the challenge. Send in what you can — from $0.93 on up — to let them know that you support what they are doing and want to help.
Scrooge might not have done it, but you can.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. E-mail: email@example.com.