Boxing Day

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

Today is Boxing Day, which in the United States doesn’t mean very much. Boxing Day is observed in the Commonwealth of Nations, where it is celebrated with a day off from work and, depending on where you live, soccer games and giant after-Christmas sales. But the origins of Boxing Day have little to do with sportsmanship and commercialism. Although the etymology of the day’s name is well debated, the day has historically been a time to give out gifts to the poor.

For most people living in the United States, poor is a relative term. I suspect that this is partly because of the American Dream, where we tend to think of our wealth in terms of what those around us have — the classic scenario is of two neighbors engaged in a constant battle of oneupmanship. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping up with the Joneses, too few people in this country have a clear understanding of just how privileged they really are.

In 2006, the poverty threshold for a family of four was an annual income of $20,444. There are much larger families in other countries that can’t even imagine earning $20,444 in a lifetime. Granted, the cost of living in our country is higher, but our government makes concessions for those who have difficulty providing for their families.

There are millions of people the world over who are homeless and hungry, and our country alone has tens of thousands of homeless people, including very young children.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those who are underprivileged and how, although Morah and I may not have everything we want, we’re quite lucky to have what we do. We’re saving up to buy a house, at some point soon we’ll need a new car, and not a single day goes by where we don’t look at all of the food in our fridge and decide that we’re not in the mood to eat any of it. When I compare what we have to other people our age who own nice houses or fancy cars, I do tend to get a little jealous, and wish that I could afford the accouterments of their lifestyles. But when I compare what we have to people who don’t have a place to live or food to eat, I am eternally grateful for the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed.

Yesterday’s Christmas haul was quite a good one; everyone got some great presents and we had a fantastic — and very filling — turkey dinner (it was the first time I ever cooked a turkey on my own!). After we had opened all of our presents, as we sat in the living room goofing around with our new toys, I thought about the people in the world who didn’t open any presents. I thought about the people who weren’t sitting in warm living rooms sipping their favorite holiday beverages. I thought about the people who would go to sleep with stomach aches not because they were full like mine, but because they were completely empty.

Boxing Day has traditionally been a time for the “haves” to think about the “have nots.” I would be delighted if the United States would recognize Boxing Day, but helping the poor doesn’t require a presidential aegis. Take a moment today to reflect on the things you have and see if you can commit to helping those in need, both in this country and around the world. No matter what you decide to donate, you can feel good knowing that you’re giving something to those who have nothing, and that you’re doing your part to make the world a better place.

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