Let a little Thanksgiving spirit spill over

Advertising flyers will dominate bulk mailings and spill from newspapers over the next few days. And before the sun rises on Friday — known as “Black Friday” to die-hard shoppers and retail employees — alarm clocks will blare and thousands will flock to early morning sales.

While standing in line with bags under your eyes before Target unlocks its doors, balancing your checkbook and setting your spending limits, think about this figure from the Children’s Defense Fund: A child in Florida is born into poverty every 15 minutes.

Now here is your challenge for the day: Take the amount of money you spend at each store, divide it by 15 and donate that amount to a bell ringer collecting money for charity. If you spend $75 at a store, the amount you donate is a mere $5.

Florida ranks No. 35 among states with the highest percentage of children living in poverty according to the defense fund. To a child wearing hand-me-down shoes that don’t fit, the most important thing on Christmas morning isn’t the newest Xbox video game; it’s knowing he’ll eat a decent meal that day.

For most of us, the greatest disappointment we faced on Christmas as children was not getting a new pair of skates. We woke up in warm beds wearing new pajamas. We ate freshly baked sweets until our teeth ached. We watched every holiday special ever produced with a National Lampoon title.

USF religious studies instructor Dell DeChant said, “We buy, not because something is worn out, but because it’s what we do.”

For this I criticize myself and our society. We let our wants overpower our needs. There may be nothing functionally wrong with the cell phone we have, but because it’s not a camera phone, we spend an unnecessary $100 for an upgrade.

Something more valuable than giving a percentage of your holiday gift spending is giving a percentage of your time. You don’t have to seek out a nonprofit organization to do it.

Thanksgiving still remains one of the few holidays in American culture that families celebrate together. For some, it’s the only time of year all the children gather around the dinner table. The time you spend mending fences with family is just as important as volunteering in the community. Charity starts at home. After that, it becomes a ripple effect.

Every holiday, my dad asks my mother to fix a few extra plates. Before he sits down to enjoy his meal, he takes the food, while it’s still warm, to our elderly neighbors and those who have no close family nearby. I don’t remember how long my father has done this. As I’ve gotten older and paid closer attention, I’ve noticed the number of plates he asks for each year increases. Though I’ve never asked my dad why he does it, I can imagine he’d say he’s sure someone would do the same for him.

It’s the simple things during the holidays that count. Remember that the act of kindness you perform doesn’t have to amount to a tax write-off.

As the saying goes, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief usfkevin@yahoo.com