A teacher did a typical holiday activity and asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter:
See the video above
The fact that is even more heartbreaking is she was not the only child in the class to write such a letter. Several children requested food and blankets too.
We assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However, one in five children live below the poverty level and do not have enough to eat on a regular basis. Many of these children are homeless too. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, but the cost of living in the United Stares is so high, they still cannot provide their children with the basic necessities of life.
I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. I am able to provide these children psychotherapy because I see them pro bono.
The other sad fact is that the United States government is considering cutting programs which assist these families and this will make life worse for these children. Many of these programs are their only source of food. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will increase the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Are we really willing to cut these vital programs that these children who are legal United States citizens and turn around and spend $5 billion dollars on a wall. Where are our priorities?
We cannot control what the government is doing except by voting and speaking out to our Senators. In addition, especially at this time of year, we can donate to food banks, churches and non-profits which assist families in need. In addition to donating to these organizations, you and your family can volunteer some time over the Holidays to assist these programs. The Holidays are the busiest time of year and they can always use volunteers. Furthermore, besides donating or volunteering during the Holidays, it is something we can do throughout the year.
There is no reason that a child who lives in the richest country in the world needs to be asking for a blanket at the Holidays. Leaving the children and families in this situation only creates more problems later in life. Research shows children who grow up under these conditions are more likely to have mental health issues as adults. We can change this by donating to non-profit
This past Tuesday was a Giving Tuesday and there will be more during the Holidays. It is a day to help us remember that many of us are very fortunate and that there are other people who are not as fortunate as we are. This day also points out how many people assume that in order to enjoy the Holidays that you must go into debt. However, it is not necessary to go into debt if you want to enjoy the Holidays. How much money you spend does not equal how much you care about someone. In my opinion, the Holidays are about spending time with people in your life that you care about and are important to your life. It is a time to acknowledge these people and to thank them for being in your life.
Therefore, one thing you can do is to take advantage of the Holiday activities happening in your cities. Most of these activities are free and offer a great opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends. Most cities websites post the Holiday activities planed for that city. You can also check your local patch.com for Holiday activities occurring in your area.
Another place to check is your church if you belong to one. Many churches offer free Holiday activities to their members and to those who do not belong to their church. For example, during Hanukkah in Broadway Plaza in downtown Walnut Creek, each night they have singing, games for the children and food. This is all free and can be a very festive and fun time even if you are not Jewish.
Another thing to do is not place so much emphasis on gifts. Maybe set a limit on what people can spend or draw names out of a hat and you only buy for one person. You can also make gifts or give someone a card telling them what they mean to you and how they add to your life. This does not cost a great deal of money.
Finally, another thing you can do is to volunteer at the food bank or an organization such as, St. Anthony’s kitchen. This cost nothing and you can give back to your community. This can be a great family activity during the Holidays. The Holidays are a time to acknowledge everyone and that every person is important. They also are a time to share love and kindness with our community members. Sharing this experience with your family can be a very positive experience for you and your family. It can be a very special way to spend the Holidays. You are also teaching your children to treat every human dignity regardless of how much money they have or where they live.
Gratitude is a very important lesson to teach children. By not emphasizing gifts you can teach them to be grateful for what and who they have in lives. There are many children in the United States who are homeless or do not have enough to eat. Yes there are children who sleep on the streets in the United States and there parents have full time jobs. However, their jobs do not pay enough to cover all of their family expenses and the parents are often lucky to have the these jobs. In our family we take each child to a store so they can pick out a gift for a child who will not be receiving gifts this Holiday Season. This helps to educate them how fortunate they are and to have empathy and compassion for others. This is the spirit of the Holidays. Hopefully they remember this lesson all year and treat other’s in need with empathy and compassion.
These are just a few suggestions for how you can celebrate the Holidays without going into debt. These are also some ways of celebrating the Holidays in a more meaningful way rather spending a great deal of money and creating a great of stress for yourself and your family.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.