This is a time of year when the chill of the air is balanced out by the warmth of fond memories and earnest hopes for the future. The joy and promise of Jesus’ birth are shining lights for us to hold on to as the days grow short and the nights long. It should be a happy time. It’s also a time to look back on the past year and make some assessments, both personally and beyond.
It’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit when we think of all the people who have lost loved ones to natural or human-made disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, the mass shooting in Las Vegas. One starts to feel powerless in the face of these calamities. And that’s a dangerous place to be because, sooner or later, that powerlessness translates into numbness. If there’s a salve to this infection of the soul, it will be found in compassion, action, and a willingness to get out of our comfort zones. Here are four ways to support those who have lost so much.
These days, there’s just no excuse not to give to charity if you have the funds to do so. Just pull out your phone, tablet, or laptop, and donate instantaneously to the charities and causes you care the most about. From helping a next-door neighbor through a GoFundMe campaign to donating to Catholic Charities USA online, you can make an impact without missing a moment of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
2) Be There
Not everyone has the time or energy to do so, but, if you can, volunteer at a food drive or homeless shelter. There’s nothing quite like seeing the direct impact of compassion on those who are treated as shadows in society. Seeing someone’s face light up simply because you are helping deliver a basic need—such as food or clothing—will brighten your soul more than any Christmas tree lighting. It will warm your heart more than any crackling fire with stockings hanging from the mantel. Giving of yourself is Christ-like, and, who knows, maybe you’re serving Christ himself. After all, Matthew 25:35 is written in the first person: “For I was hungry and you gave me food. . . . “
3) Cut through the Information Overload
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that’s thrown at us every day. So choose just a handful of organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services, that you want to support, and subscribe to their e-newsletters. Another alternative is to like them on Facebook
and/or follow them on Twitter. That way, your social-media feeds are accented by reminders of crises that may have faded from the 24-hour news cycle’s memory.
4) Remember the Power of Prayer
We believe that prayer brings us closer not only to God but also to each other. Sometimes it might seem as if praying doesn’t have a direct effect on people who are suffering hundreds or thousands of miles away. Like the apostle Thomas, many of us feel that we have to actually touch the wounds to know that it is Christ who is standing before us. However, prayers for those we don’t even know show how far-reaching the term the body of Christ really is. After praying, we may even feel more energized to donate or volunteer. The power of prayer cannot be overestimated.
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, may we remember those in need of our compassion and support. It’s a challenge to not turn away from people who are suffering, because it can be so unpleasant to see. But if we fix our gaze on them and seek out ways to relieve their pain, we just might see Christ there, too, smiling back at us.