The tree in our lounge was put to the test, with branches buckled to the point of snapping under the massive load of lights and ornaments. It would start shedding needles within days under the strain. The warm glow of hundreds of flashing red and white lights was always a comfort to watch in the darkness. Together with the 5000-calorie dinners, late night board and card games, and endless loops of Nat King Cole, Slade and Bing Crosby, Christmas was the highlight of the calendar.
But this year, many families won't be having that experience. In fact, millions will be lucky to spend Christmas Day in the homes they struggle to afford, dealing with job losses and massive debts, and saddled with desperate thoughts about how they'll possibly survive in 2010. At the end of a very tough year, for these people there will be no reprieve, and they won't have the brief joyful period that the majority of us do. An uneventful Christmas without any spirit is something most adults would find pretty miserable, but for those with kids it's nothing more than torture and a persistent nagging feeling of failing to provide as a parent.
Personally, I can't imagine telling small children that Santa won't be visiting this year, and that's why I decided 2009 was the time to do something about it. While I appreciate all the gifts I've been given by friends and family over the years, this Christmas I want nothing, and I've asked everyone to donate to an Adopt a Family fund early. Whatever is raised can then be given to one of these families who simply won't have a Christmas otherwise. Just a couple of hundred dollars is the difference and will transform a single family's experience.
I'm not asking you to give up the gifts, but if you can afford it, this year I urge you to join an Adopt a Family
program. There are many charities running these campaigns, including the Salvation Army, but whichever you choose the goal is the same. Even if you've never been big on charity programs before, there's never been a more important time to help where you can. And whether you have ten dollars or a thousand to donate, this is the year you can be the real Santa Clause for families who need to see him the most. Take action, and spread the word: there are millions out there depending on us.