Columns 2016

A holiday message

Black Friday is over and we are now fully engaged in the orgy of shopping that has become our holiday season. When we emerge from our shopping stupor around January 2 and see the credit card bills, we might not think those gifts were as much fun as they were when we were buying them. But if you take just a moment to actually honor the spirit of the season, you might find a way to make at least some of those gifts as palatable after the holidays as before.

Yes, this is my annual pitch for everyone to try to remember that the child Christians celebrate during this season came to earth with a very simple message: love one another and care for one another. At no point in the Bible did Jesus add any conditions to that love. It was completely unconditional. No one was asked to take drug tests before being fed or required to be in a recovery program before being housed. No one asked Mary and Joseph their political leanings before providing them with what shelter was available.

This year is going to be a particularly hard year for most non-profits in our state. Like state government itself, many depended heavily on contributions from the oil industry and state coffers. As we are all too painfully aware, that money is drying up faster than a puddle in the Sahara. If we want Alaska to remain a place where compassion is still available to those in need and cultural events still occur so our children understand the wonder and beauty of the arts, we are going to have to step up to the plate and support these organizations.

There was a time when Alaska had no oil money (and a collective gasp arises from the millennials who have never known life without oil money providing everything to everyone). People depended on each other. Native cultures understand this best perhaps. They are built on the concept of sharing so that all in their communities can survive. Part of being a community is helping those who cannot help themselves, not because you expect a return on your dollar but because that’s what communities do. We pull together.

This year we need to pull together more than we’ve had to for a long time. Oil money is gone. The state is bankrupt. The years of Alaska megaprojects are over. The years where we spent like drunks on a binge have ended. The years when non-profits could depend on large infusions from government and big oil have passed.

There is no guarantee that the next legislature has any better plan than the last on how to deal with this – except of course for our perennial chant, “Please god, give us one more boom. We promise not to waste it this time.” And that means Alaskans have to once again take up the task of caring for each other.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that my favorite organization is Bird TLC. It has given me a safe haven for over sixteen years where I can talk birds all day long with others who share my passion. I have met some of the most wonderful and caring people I can imagine there (and yes, some of the strangest. But that’s bird people.)

I’m betting for everyone reading this column there is a non-profit that needs your help and speaks to a special passion you might have. Whether it’s animals or birds, people in need or public broadcasting, a love of books or a love of nature, there is a non-profit that will be your perfect match.

So before you spend all your holiday cash this year, before you max out every credit card in honor of the birth of a child who emphatically distanced himself from worldly goods, perhaps you could put aside an amount to be donated to a non-profit that speaks to your inner self – the self that material items don’t feed. Maybe even take some time out of your holiday season to do some volunteer work.

Reading Matthew 25: 34 – 40 might help you understand why helping your community is more in keeping with the actual spirit of Christianity as defined by Jesus Christ than any number of electronic toys. It ends with the words, “ Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

His family was our whole world and every creature in it.