The New Year, 2017, has arrived with much trepidation. We have a new President taking office who is loathed, feared, or both, by many in our very polarized country. California is launching a new foster care “reform” wrought with flaws; so underfunded and ill thought out that it will take a miracle to produce any real reform. The majority of Americans are suffering from wage stagnation, with no indications from the corporate, business or public sectors of any relief or interest in fixing the problem. Our government has become an oligarchy, ruled by a few ultra-wealthy who have bought off our politicians. “Affordable Housing” has become an oxymoron, being unavailable and unachievable in most communities. America’s “safety net” is on the chopping block, including Socials Security, Medicare, healthcare and education. Congress doesn’t believe in global warming and wants to gut all of the controls to protect our air, water and environment. Nuclear proliferation is being proposed and long-term strategic alliances designed to keep the world safer, are in peril!
Welcome to our Blog! We post weekly articles written on a variety of topics from a variety of people, including our staff, volunteers, community members, and our parents and youth. The Voices of our Blog are opinion pieces, reflecting the diverse experiences and viewpoints of our community. These articles are not meant to represent the views of everyone at FCNI, our Board of Directors and staff, or present a definitive policy statement, but are designed to be informative and thought-provoking.
A week or so before Christmas, my wife decided to hire a cleaning service to help get prepared for several large gatherings and family coming to stay from out of town. The company she used was very reputable and had great referrals. During the period of time the cleaners were at work, my wife engaged one of them in conversation and what she learned was quite disturbing. This lady has two children, the oldest being 11, and was basically homeless. She indicated they spent most nights in the homeless shelter and couch surfed whenever they could. Sometimes they had to sleep in their car. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do for Christmas, where they would be or how to get gifts for her kids. Financially, she receives a fairly decent wage, but is being paid under the table. Consequently, she has no pay receipts needed to obtain housing. The lady indicated that she did not want to quit because well-paying jobs are scarce in our area and she felt she could not take care of her family on minimum wage. She is a citizen and is not, does she want to be, on public assistance. In this day and age, situations like this is are far too common. As the gap continues to grow between the rich and poor, and the middle class erodes away, we are losing one of the essentials of life – the ability for everyday folks to have a place to call HOME!
Gifts come in all shapes and sizes—from extravagant, to handmade, or sentimental and even humorous. While every gift given for the pure joy of its recipient is meaningful, “life changing” gifts are in a category all to themselves. These are the gifts that when given, change the mindset, the circumstances and even the futures of those being gifted. Every holiday season, Mike McCarthy partners with us to give such a gift to one of our families working towards successful self-sufficiency. And witnessing each family’s joy at receiving Mike’s gift leaves not one dry eye at FCNI, and reminds each of us that we live in a truly remarkable community.
This holiday season, I will be celebrating my 43rd Christmas. In this time, I have made many holiday memories--some good, some not so good, and some which are still very funny. After all these Christmases, I have one particular memory which sticks out in my mind, and it involved “Santa’s Workshop”. No, I didn’t grow up in the North Pole, but I did grown up in Texas. And every year at my elementary school before school ended for the winter break, the stage in our cafeteria would be transformed into “Santa’s Workshop.” When I say “transformed,” I mean folding tables were set up in rows and a variety of family-satisfying gifts were put out on the tables. Gifts such as coffee mugs displaying slogans like “World’s Best Dad”, ceramic figurines of all sorts, neck ties, aprons, and, yes, even ashtrays (remember, this was over 30 years ago) lined the tables for students to peruse and purchase for different family members as gifts for the holidays. Every year, as I stood on the wooden steps leading to “Santa’s Workshop,” my anxiety would rise in hopes that the children in front of me would not buy the last pet rock which I knew my dad wanted more than anything. As I retell this memory, I am somewhat surprised at how a humble school fundraiser contributed so greatly to the development of my character as an adult and father. “Santa’s Workshop” helped to form generosity within me. It was the first time in my life that I remember thinking about other people and what they would like or need as a gift. This kind of generosity is a character trait that I strive to instill in my own children to this day.
For a long time, our society has clung to the idea that we are somehow hardwired to be selfish. And while there’s no denying this fact, there is now compelling evidence to prove that the pull that we all feel from time to time to do something generous is a foundational part of our humanity. As it turns out, there is a science behind the power of giving--we are also wired to do good!