What Christmas and the Holidays Mean to Me
Growing up in West Virginia, Christmas meant everything to my mother. In fact, my mother loved Christmas so much that she actually had a Christmas room in her house 365 days a year. I remember going to her house in later years on a hot July day and noticed that her Christmas presents for the next Christmas were under the Christmas tree. She usually finished her annual Christmas shopping by the end of summer.
One year, she added a six-foot high Santa that spoke when you walked passed it. She made Christmas special for all of us. My late mother was the center of the Christmas universe, and I miss her sitting in her favorite chair in her Christmas room. We always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with a several-hour affair, and we always followed a wonderful family ritual that we greatly anticipated.
My father was an executive with the United States Postal Service. Christmas was not his favorite time of year. He had to work overtime throughout the month of December each year. He dealt with numerous headaches as the mail had to go through regardless of the weather. He especially did not enjoy the stress of having his staff deliver millions of pieces of mail by Christmas Eve night. Children wrote thousands of letters to Santa Claus at the North Pole that arrived at the Charleston Post Office.
He worked, for the most part, in an era before ZIP codes, computerization, UPS, etc. Can you imagine the speed of one letter and package being delivered without a ZIP code? I remember watching my late father talk about the numerous truck wrecks because of weather and understood his sleep during Christmas Day when he finally received a day of rest.
While both parents viewed Christmas from different perspectives, they strived to make the holiday special for my three sisters and me. I will always remember their kindness and concern for us. Not only did they make our holiday special, but they always showed me it was better to give than receive. I found out very early in life that I loved the feeling of giving. It felt so much better than receiving.
I wanted to give to those in need. I knew for many, Christmas and the holiday season were about thriving but surviving. These families were worried about the basics of life. A special present to them consisted of clothes, food, shelter, health care funding, rent money plus other basics. Can you image the impact we could have if everyone "with" gave some of his or her excess to those "without"?
Many promote the commercial spirit of giving at Christmas. I believe all of us should consider promoting philanthropy in a noncommercial way at this time of year. Think about your neighbors, friends and those in need this year. Do something nice without expectation of return. Can you afford to help at least one person this year? Become a Santa, and see how it feels!
I hope you experience the joy of giving and pass that feeling to others. Christmas should not be just another day in December or a reason to shop until you drop. It should be a positive state of mind that is shared throughout the year. Remember the real reason why we are celebrating this holiday. May each of you have a wonderful holiday season with your family. You are making memories that you remember for the rest of your life.
F. Duke Haddad is currently associate director of development, director of campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC in Fishers, Indiana.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 12 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.