Of all years, this would be a good one for us to find, resurrect and share as many Christmas and holiday season miracles as we can. Together, we have the power to make true miracles happen. We need both faith and determination but we can brighten this holiday season with practical acts of giving, sharing, being joyful and guarding our health.
We’re not talking here about the religious miracles of the virgin birth of Jesus to Mary or the eight days of light from a single menorah, now celebrated during Hanukkah. And, we’re also not talking about the miracle of Amazon that can deliver us the most gifts, the fastest and at the lowest prices.
The miracles we seek are a series of hometown holiday miracles. These happen when a simple act is multiplied into something extra or when one gift can be shared by many. We’re seeking hometown miracles that will feed the hungry, comfort the homeless and the poor, bring faith to the doubters and be sustained and extended into many future holiday seasons to come.
Is it not a miracle that when one of us sends a $10 donation check to the Redwood Empire Food Bank, that the nonprofit can leverage that money into $40 worth of food for the hungry? One dollar a day provides enough food to feed a single child and $4 a day can feed a family of four. Donations can be made online (refb.org) or by mailing a check to 3990 Brickway Blvd., Santa Rosa, 95403.
We are reminded throughout the year, and especially during the holidays, that shopping locally supports our local small businesses and jobs. But there is a bigger miracle that shopping locally creates. We know from bookshelves of studies that when $100 is spent in our hometown that $68 - $73 is recirculated within the local economy. This is not just saved money. This year, these local shopping dollars could save dozens of local small businesses from permanently going out of business. The miracle of a single gift purchase makes a local cash register ring, adds to a paycheck, helps someone pay a bill and takes what’s left and buys a gift for someone else — maybe us.
When we support our friendly hometown merchants instead of surrendering to the false miracles of Amazon, we are actually investing in our community and ourselves. Hometown holiday shopping creates local wealth for storeowners, local landlords, vendors, craftspeople, schools, local government and also this local newspaper. Every Amazon or online-purchased box that FedEx delivers to our homes is a symbol of how much wealth we just shipped out of town forever.
What is your definition of a holiday miracle? When we want to worship the birth of Jesus Christ or light the candles of the Hanukkah menorah, we flock to our local churches, synagogues or other holy halls. Many are a century old or older. What miracle is required to keep these doors open and staffed? Does an invisible hand from on high drop money into the collection plates? Or, do we take money from our own pockets that we’ve been passing around town all year? The extra money we can give to our local shared ministries, nonprofits and volunteer organizations is how daily acts of kindness can happen, each one part of a string of endless miracles.
This year of the COVID-19 pandemic causes extra challenges for making hometown miracles. Some of our local businesses are not allowed to be open. Our restaurants are especially challenged and all the local nonprofits must continue to cancel or greatly reduce their fundraising. One answer to overriding these pandemic-caused barriers is to give gift certificates, dedicate an extra donation in someone else’s name or do some “virtual” volunteering on social media and with our Christmas cards and holiday messages.
A lasting holiday miracle would be for all of us to continue fighting the coronavirus. Yes, wear facemasks, but also avoid holiday traveling, unsafe social gatherings and temptations to let our guards down. The end of this public health pandemic will certainly feel like the best miracle of all.