COMMENTARY: Give the Gift of Caring and Sharing This Holiday Season

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c. 2000 Religion News Service

(Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose mission is to Leave No Child Behind(r). Please contact CDF’s Religious Affairs Division at 202-662-3583 to learn how you can help.)

(UNDATED) No matter what faith traditions we come from or holidays we celebrate _ Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, all three, or more _ we often call this the time of year when the “Christmas spirit” is in the air.

But what is the true Christmas spirit?

The average American family spends hundreds of dollars on gifts to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. It is wonderful to share special times and gifts with friends and family, but these holiday seasons for many have become defined by shopping for the “in” toys, clothes and other material gifts we think our children want.

It is fine to give children these things when we can, but we should never forget to give them the more important gifts of our time, attention and family rituals _ ourselves _ that children need. Too many of our children are already afflicted with “affluenza,” the poverty of having too much that is worth too little. Perhaps this season we can teach that the greatest gift is one of caring, sharing and service.

As millions of Christians celebrate a poor, homeless child threatened by Herod’s violence that took the lives of innocent first-born children, let us commit to standing up and caring for the millions of children who are destitute, homeless and hungry, and threatened by violence in our rich, powerful nation today, where it is safer to be a law enforcement officer than a child under 10.

Let’s care and call for justice for the more than 12 million poor children, more than 4 million of whom do not have enough to eat. Let’s insist that our nation insure every one of the nearly 11 million uninsured children now and stop the gun slaughter that has snuffed out 84,000 child and youth lives since 1979.

Let’s pray that we may commit at this magical moment in history on the cusp of a new era to acting on God’s call through the prophet Zechariah “to see that justice is done, to show kindness and mercy to one another, not to oppress widows, orphans, foreigners who live among you or anyone else in need” by serving and caring and joining together in a powerful movement to Leave No Child Behind(r) in the new century.

I Care And I Am Willing To Serve

Lord I cannot preach like Martin Luther King, Jr.

or turn a poetic phrase like Maya Angelou

but I care and I am willing to serve.

I do not have Harriet Tubman’s courage

or Franklin Roosevelt’s political skills

but I care and I am willing to serve.

I cannot sing like Fannie Lou Hamer

or organize like Bayard Rustin

but I care and I am willing to serve.

I am not holy like Archbishop Desmond Tutu,

forgiving like Nelson Mandela,

or disciplined like Mahatma Gandhi

but I care and I am willing to serve.

I am not brilliant like Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

or as eloquent as Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington

but I care and I am willing to serve.

I have not Mother Teresa’s saintliness,

Dorothy Day’s love or Cesar Chavez’s

gentle tough spirit

but I care and I am willing to serve.

God it is not as easy as it used to be

to frame an issue and to forge a solution

but I care and I am willing to serve.

I can’t see or hear well or speak good English,

I stutter sometimes, am afraid of criticism,

and get real scared standing up before others

but I care and I am willing to serve.

I’m so young

nobody will listen

I’m not sure what to say or do

but I care and I am willing to serve.

Use me as Thou will today and tomorrow to help build a nation and world where no child is left behind and everyone feels welcome.

By Marian Wright Edelman


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