Sharing in the gift of joy

And so begins the season of giving, our time to remember — as we polish off the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers and look for hiding spots for our Black Friday finds — that even more joy can come this time of year if we share the blessings for which we professed our gratitude last week.

Local organizations would be happy to show you the multitude of ways to do so.

Several days ago, we published our Giving Guide, filled with ideas. And one would be hard-pressed to venture far without running into some of the more visible seasonal options.

Salvation Army of Parkersburg kicked off its Red Kettle Campaign last week. You know the bell-ringers — the ones standing in the cold keeping up a merry jingle to remind you to drop a few coins (or more) into the red kettle as you hurry off to your next errand. The money raised through little bits of small change here and there adds up to an enormous amount of good for local residents who need the Salvation Army.

For children whose Christmases might not otherwise be so merry or bright, the Salvation Army Angel Trees offer a chance for local residents to choose a tag that guides them through bringing a little more joy to kids — and their parents — Christmas Day.

Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots, organized by the Marine Corps Reserves, makes it possible for kids who might otherwise get only basic necessities for Christmas to be surprised by something just plain fun under the tree. It is hard to resist feeling a little like a kid, too, while shopping for the perfect toys to light up a child’s face Christmas morning.

But speaking of those basic necessities, Comfort Keepers collects certain nonperishable food items or bottled water to go into Blessing Bags that will feed seniors in need throughout the winter. These are folks for whom a single power outage, or snowstorm that makes leaving home impossible could make a devastating difference. (Remember, the Christmas season is only the beginning of the nasty weather for a few months.)

There are many others, of course, Coats for Kids, Operation Christmas Child, Make a Wish, Big Brothers Big Sisters … many of the same groups that need help all year long, but kick into a different gear around the holidays.

Waking up Christmas morning and knowing something you did over the previous few weeks will make that morning a little more joyous for someone else is an incredible gift to give yourself as well. There’s nothing quite like imagining the look on the face of a child you will likely never meet, but who knows someone else cares, someone else wants them to have a merry Christmas.

Don’t believe me? I dare you to try it and prove me wrong.

Sharing the joy of giving during the holiday season is usually something passed along through families. It was for me. I knew about the good work being done through local charitable organizations because I watched my parents give — even during years when all they had to give was time — long before I was able to shake any extra coins out of my piggy bank to drop into the kettle, myself.

I have heard of other families with traditions such as spending one day per holiday season as bell-ringers, with family members of all ages participating; or making a canned good part of the “entry fee” for getting in to the holiday feast, so that all that food can be taken to the food pantry later in the day before a few family members volunteer to serve meals at a shelter or soup kitchen.

Make sure the young people in your lives understand the importance of giving of themselves, and taking care of their fellow man. If you can pass that along to them, this season, it will be the best gift you can give them.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at