A Thankless Thanksgiving

Technically this post is titled The Hell With The Christmas Spirit. It is my complaint about society’s focus upon doing good deeds and being kind during the holiday season. Read the words below and you’ll gain more insight into my irritation with it.

I dislike it because people are hungry year round and I think that the message is wrong. Don’t just give because some people can’t make Thanksgiving dinner without help. Give because those same people have trouble feeding their families on Monday and Tuesday. Give because Friday morning some kids skip breakfast because mom and dad can’t afford it.

Every year I talk to my kids about this and why we need to give back year round and not just during one particular time.

Every year I blog about why I hate hearing about the Christmas spirit. Inevitably these posts generate a variety of emails from my readers ranging from those that politely try to explain why I am wrong to those that suggest I might engage in some sort of anatomically impossible act or better yet…die.

Well my friends I suppose that were I flexible enough I might consider the middle option. It would save a lot of time and money. Just think I wouldn’t have to engage in small talk, cuddle or try to silently sneak away. The third option isn’t quite as interesting to me as I have quite a few things to do and death is really far down the list. However, I would like to address the man who says that I am going to burn in hell because I don’t share his beliefs. Yes, I am sure about my own beliefs and I don’t need to promote them by engaging in religious terror, but thanks for playing.

The real point of this nonsense is to remind everyone that hunger, hopelessness and hurt do not magically disappear after the holiday season. I simply hate the idea of focusing our attention on giving because of the time of year. I have heard all of the arguments about why it makes sense to make the appeal now and I just don’t buy it.

But this year I want to point the spotlight at a different group as well. Let’s not focus the beam on those who are living on the streets or who are “traditionally” poor. Let’s talk about our friends and family who are struggling in silence. They are college educated, hard working members of society who have fallen upon hard times.

They are men and women who have always been productive members of society, but for one reason or another they are struggling now. They live among you. You know them. You see them on a regular basis but you probably don’t hear their stories. They are sad, heartbroken and uninterested in pity. They don’t want to be lectured about what they could or should have done. They don’t want to be judged for for their situations.

All they want is an opportunity to take care of their families. They don’t want hand outs, but a hand up and their numbers are growing. Each day they are beating their heads against stone, fighting for each inch and wondering what they must have done wrong. It may sound like hyperbole or some sort of sad story that you would see on Lifetime, but it is not.

It is life and it is killing people. Their spirits are being broken and their faith is being crushed. The hardest part for many is the feeling that they are dying a slow death. It is like fighting a giant anaconda that slowly squeezes you to death.

And that my friends is my very happy message of cheer and good will towards men.

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  1. Diana Stroe November 17, 2011 at 3:46 am

    I agree with you. Helping others can be done all year round and not only when holiday is coming. We need to always be aware of their situations and not only during the so called spirit of the holiday season, the time of gift giving or sharing your blessings. I do believe in good karma so no matter how big or small your giving to others, it could still make a big difference on their lives.

  2. 30ish Mama November 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    You make a great point Jack. We tend to feel more charitable around the holidays, but people need help all year round. Maybe it’s because there are no commercial reminders to give like there are during the holidays. It’s no excuse, but that may be the reason. I know the priest at our church has an anonymous help system in place for the holidays and I am going to ask him about extending it to encompass the whole year.

    When I hear of people I know having a hard time, I honestly don’t know how to help without making them uncomfortable. I feel the need to tread lightly, but I know that the little things I do aren’t enough.

    • Jack November 17, 2011 at 12:38 am

      I understand the reluctance to reach out. You don’t want to embarrass them or make them feel any more uncomfortable than they already do.

      I am not a saint and I know that I haven’t always tried to help when I probably should have. But part of the purpose of the blog is for me to air out my thoughts and try to gain clarity.

      That’s what led me here. I think it is wonderful that you are going to ask your priest to extend it. That is great.

  3. Larry Roberts November 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Thumbs up! I really like the concept.

  4. the muskrat November 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Yes, shitty times happen all 12 months of the year, but if people seem to want to help during 1-2 months of the year, isn’t that still a good thing? Like the guy tossing starfish back into the ocean when there are millions of them on the shore–you know the anecdote, I’m sure.

    • Jack November 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm

      It is a good thing and I am not saying that we should stop that. Rather I want to adjust the message to reflect the need to give year round.

      But I wouldn’t turn down donations just because it doesn’t come when I think it should.

  5. Bill Dorman November 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Merry freakin’ Xmas, huh? I hear ya brother and I definitely have seen it among some friends and family.

    Because my income is directly a part of how healthy the businesses we insure are; I have definitely felt it. However, I’m not about to complain just for the reasons you mentioned above. I DO have the power to control my own destiny still, which I know others aren’t as fortunate.

    I give back as much as I can. I enjoy the work I do with the Guardian ad Litem program and if you want to see a group of people barely hanging on, this is it. Trust me, I am very thankful for what I have.

    It will get better my friend….

    • Jack November 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Hey Bill,

      The boys are working hard to control their own destinies. They don’t sit around waiting for things to happen or moping. I just know them well enough to know that this crap is eating them up inside.

      In regard to giving back, well I in my book all that matters is that we do something. Size isn’t as important as making an effort.

  6. Leon Noone November 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

    G’Day Jack,
    Just a couple of things: whatever you give always comes back. It probably wont be in a way or a form you expect. It may not be direct to you. But it always comes back.

    Never, ever have a “Garage Sale.” Give away the stuff you can no longer use.

    Finally, let me quote that extraordinary Brazilian, Ricardo Semler: “Why do billionaires greedily accumulate money, only to donate it to ethereal concepts such as world peace?’

    And remember, it could always be worse; you could be a Red Sox supporter.


    • Jack November 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm


      Those boston fans are nuts- celtics, sox and pats. I dislike ’em all.

      The world does seem to give back what we give out but I hope that some of my old luggage never comes back. Don’t want or need it.

  7. Betsy Cross November 16, 2011 at 6:31 am

    I think you bring up a few different concerns.
    The first one is that I know how it feel when people think you could have made better choices. It stinks!
    The next is that I go to visit my dad when I’m home at his nursing home, a place that always gets carolers around Christmastime. The residents are so hungry for human contact and interaction. You’re right. We could all do more within our circle of influence for the day-to-day needs of those who struggle near us.
    Lastly, when we had two children, back in the day, I had a friend with two children who suddenly became homeless. We took her in to our teeny, tiny house and watched as our electric and water bill soared. We were struggling ourselves. It was very stressful. We ended up moving and she stayed and married the carpenter who fixed the deck! Go figure!
    My heart always breaks when I see someone suffering. I always think about what I could do if I have no money to offer. I don’t have an answer. The guilt remains.
    The challenge for me is to remain joyful in the midst of other people’s suffering, while still being humble enough to answer the question, “Is there more that I can do TODAY?!”

    • Jack November 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      One of the things that I love about this post is that it always brings out great stories.

      Every time I run it my readers share these tales of moments where they helped others and it really is just wonderful to read.

      They help to remind me and others that there really are a lot of good people out there.

      I don’t think it is wrong for people to be happy while others are struggling. It is all a question of time and place.

  8. June November 16, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Wow that’s pretty radical thinking. But I get your point. I think it’s Thanksgiving is more of setting the mood for the rest of the current year and the incoming new year. It’s hard enough to get by with too much gloom, so it will be much better to count your blessings and share it with others who have less to be thankful for. Share hope and happiness.

    • Jack November 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm


      I agree with you regarding positive thinking. I am not saying that we should run around and say the world is over, but I want some more balance to some things and this is one of them.

  9. LaRae Quy November 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Jack

    I look at my own neighborhood, friends, and family first, and then try to do the right thing. I know I can’t save the world, but if I can help out those in my immediate environment, I feel like I’ve made a difference.

    I like your point about taking the time to look at friends and neighbors who are suffering . . . they are the ones we can reach and touch – literally. If we all did that, perhaps there would be less suffering in our own country.

    • Jack November 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm


      Personal experience has proven to me that focusing on our communities can be very effective.

      We can’t save the world on our own but we can make a difference locally and who knows what can happen after that. It takes a small spark to start a fire.

  10. Adrienne November 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I can understand your complaint Jack for people pushing the holiday season in such a way. But to me it’s a celebration of the birth of Christ and it shouldn’t be all about how many gifts you give. For those people who have a big heart as well as good intentions, you can’t fault them.

    Our family also gives year round so that’s what I’m saying. There are still plenty of us out there who do our part all year long and not just at Christmas. But I do have to agree with Stan to an extent.

    The holidays do push some people into the giving spirit so at least maybe once a year they will go out of there way and do a kind gesture. You can’t necessarily make an old dog do new tricks. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try though.


    • Jack November 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm

      I just am tired and fed up with some things. Have too many friends who are fighting to keep their heads above water.

      They are the people that I think of who should ask for help but aren’t. Pride keeps them from doing so, but hunger isn’t going to go away because of that.

  11. Craig McBreen November 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    We try to help whenever possible. My wife does more than me though, especially with the elderly. She’s a volunteer and has met some amazing people along the way.

    We’ve never helped during the holidays, because I know there are more than enough volunteers during that time of year. I also prefer to donate quality items vs. just reselling them. I don’t like to give away junk, but something someone could actually use. Anyway, I need to do more, thanks for the reminder.

    • Jack November 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm


      It sounds like you are already involved and I think that is great.

      Truthfully I am still highly focused on the middle class people who are partially or underemployed. I know so many who have spent years working and have found themselves in the unfamiliar position of struggling.

      That doesn’t take away from those who have been hurting longer either. The difference is that there is a big group that needs help but is probably not asking for it.

  12. Stan Faryna November 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I have a homeless friend in a spare room. I feed him two hot meals per day. The cost of utilities and groceries doubled. Just like my time cooking and cleaning. I don’t know, Jack. It’s hard. I can’t sustain it financially or emotionally for much longer. It’s been many months. But I keep telling myself that I can’t turn him out just as we head into Christmas territory. But something has to give. Be it heaven. Or hell.

    Myself, I don’t expect most people to put themselves out of entertainment, comforts, and conveniences to help out the people they know. Theoretically, it’s a lot easier to give $5 to Nisha’s water project and satisfy your conscience, pat yourself on the back, and turn off to other people’s problems. Theoretically, I say, because obviously to me I have failed to inspire .01 percent of my followers and fans to give that five bucks. [shrug]

    All I can do is keep on keeping on with that.

    Have you considered that if there was no Thanksgiving or Christmas push, most people wouldn’t even consider helping others for that day or two in the year? Of course, you have. [grin]

    • Jack November 15, 2011 at 8:38 pm


      I am a big believer in the power of giving back with no regard to size or effort.

      I see it in similar terms to making big money off of app sales. Sell a million at a buck a pop and good things happen.

      Volume works here too. You are right about it not being easy but both sides benefit from it. The idea is to give a hand up as opposed to a hand out.

      I hear what you are saying about what might happen if there wasn’t a push during this time of year.

      That is just marketing. Sell it as something that needs to happen year round. Position it in real terms that remind people that the homeless in Santa Monica can use a hand even during the summer months.

      It is just one of those things that makes me crazy.

  13. Julie November 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Awesome. I can relate to that description and know so many others who can and will for a long while. When I was in high school we used to volunteer all year long, somewhere – it was a requirement. I probably should reinstitute that practice somewhere besides my blog, and teach it to the kids as well.

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