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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who's helping who?

A few years ago, I heard a story on NPR entitled, "Volunteering on the wrong day." It explained how well-intentioned people inadvertently make the holidays tougher on nonprofit organizations, especially soup kitchens and homeless missions, by donating their time on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Instead of receiving much-needed help, the organizations have to try to find responsibilities for the volunteers because available hands heavily outweigh the amount of work to be done.

Jeffrey at The Gathering raised an interesting and related question recently: The Christmas Spirit--Why Not All Year? I don't know the answer, but I do think the challenge is for us as individuals to look for ways to help others out of sincere desire, not just because the calendar suggests that it's the right thing to do. Soup kitchens are often desperate for help and for financial support in July, not in December.

Many people remember people in need and good causes when the holiday season reminds us. There's nothing wrong with that, and I'm not suggesting we stop promoting that element of Christmas. Maybe the concept of Christmas in July, which is generally more punchline than passion, can teach us something: Help when the need is there, not when it's convenient.


Sam Davidson said...

Great thoughts, here. Nonprofits face a challenge: they may not NEED the volunteers, but you can't turn them away because you want them to have a good time and come back. And yes, the need is great EVERYDAY of the year? How do you capitalize then on a small interest and turn it into a lifsytle?

Rob Robinson said...

Thanks, Sam. Boy, that last one is the big question.