Get into the spirit of giving this season | Editorial

We’ve all heard the phrase “the spirit of Christmas,” but its meaning is sometimes lost amid the barrage of consumerism that has come to define this national holiday.

There is great pleasure in giving and receiving the perfect gift, and the satisfaction of giving to those outside of your friends and family is equally gratifying.

We are reminded of this sentiment by Scrooge in “The Christmas Carol,” which is running at Orcas Center Dec. 10 through Dec. 14. It’s an age-old tale of redemption and understanding the true meaning of Christmas – and a life well lived. For those of us who are in the play, and there are many dedicated islanders who are a part of the production, we watch Scrooge’s transformation each night in rehearsal. Every time, it hits me hard. Life isn’t all about business and growing your 401k – it’s about human connections.

Why is it important to volunteer and donate during the holidays? For the lonely, the homeless and the underprivileged, this season is not a time of joy.

Consider choosing a tag off the tree at Island Market and make a local child’s Christmas morning a special one. Donate items to the food bank or give warm clothing to Orcas Family Connections. We held a clothing drive at the Sounder and received many bags of donations from islanders. The items went to a homeless shelter for men, women and kids on the mainland.  Thank you to everyone who gave; we are so grateful.

Walk a dog or sign up to be a foster family at the animal shelter. Visit a nursing home and hold someone’s hand. One of my fondest Christmas memories is singing carols every year at the convalescent center in Friday Harbor with a group of kids from school. We sang at businesses throughout town, but performing for the older folks, some of whom wouldn’t have the gift of any visitors for Christmas, was the best part of the day.

The Orcas Island Community Foundation is offering an online gift catalog to benefit programs on the island. Browse the catalog, pick out gift opportunities and give gifts in honor of your friends and loved ones. Donate any amount of $10 or more at http://oicf.us/.

Giving to others helps hold a community together. And among the personal benefits: it teaches an important value to teach our children and provides a sense of accomplishment. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. It simply feels good to lend a hand.

I am proud to live in a community with such a deep spirit of generosity. For me, that is what Christmas is all about.