Over the past few weeks the media seems obsessed with exploiting celebrities with power and influence. Four days running, local and national newspapers carried the indiscretions of Tiger Woods on their front pages. The tone and tenor of most of the articles written was aimed at blemishing his character and integrity. I don t play golf; candidly, I am not interested in the game at all. However, I know enough about athletics to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution he has made to the game of golf, not just as an athlete, but as a humanitarian through his foundation. He also has courageously challenged people s attitudes about race and discrimination.
As a well-known athlete, he does not deserve to be under such scrutiny regarding his private life. He also does not deserve to have his personal indiscretions plastered across every major newspaper in the country for three or four days. If what has been printed in the press or spoken about on the 6 p.m. TV news is true, he clearly does need to recalibrate his moral compass. But that is private matter, not up for human consumption or criticism.
It seems to me that there are many more appropriate stories that the press could be covering on its front pages, especially during the holiday season. We seem to be obsessed with violence, and human indiscretions of a wide variety. Clearly, if people who are leading us are engaged in illegal and criminal behavior, that is newsworthy. However, if the governor, the president or one of our senators was having an extramarital affair, that is nobody s business. Needless to say, I do not endorse that kind of moral decision-making, but also, I don t support putting people s moral indiscretions on the front page of our daily newspapers or as the lead story on the six o clock evening TV news.
There are so many other issues that the public should be made aware of. They either get buried in the back of the paper in a four-line statement or are not covered at all. Some will say that gossip sells more newspapers than quality human interest stories, or even well documented news stories about the community, the nation and the world.
Despite our human landscape of violence, hate and war, there is so much goodness occurring all around us. Too often, those stories of human kindness and compassion get buried in the back of our newspapers.
Recently, there was a story about a little girl who is suffering from a rare form of leukemia. She desperately needs a bone marrow transplant to live. The article carrying the story mentioned that there would be a day at a local firehouse for people to come and be tested. To the shock of her family and the larger community, about 2500 people stood on line to be tested to assist this little girl in saving her life.
The stories that were being told that day about why people were waiting on line were both heartwarming and inspirational. Some of the volunteers traveled a great distance to support this little girl in need.
Right before Thanksgiving, a food pantry/soup kitchen was destroyed by fire. Almost everything that was collected for people in need for Thanksgiving was destroyed. The pastor in charge was devastated and overwhelmed because she knew how intense the need was this year.
The media carried the story. The pastor s peers and the community rose up in great number with donated food items to replace the prepared baskets that were destroyed. People also came forward and volunteered to help rebuild the site that housed the food pantry and soup kitchen.
Some of the untold stories this holiday season that are making our community brighter have to do with a growing number of young people who are getting involved voluntarily with community service.
Christmas Magic is a local program founded by a dad who had a concern that his kids might lose sight of the real meaning of this time of year. That simple experience touched a handful of poor children living in a shelter. One father s concern gave life to an outreach during the holiday season that touches thousands of poor kids across the bi-county community. It also engages thousands of volunteers who make Christmas Magic happen. They are in desperate need of donations of toys. If you can help, please drop your donations off at any Empire Bank in Suffolk County. You will definitely make a poor little boy or girl very happy this holiday season.
A little five year old, gave me his Christmas list. Like most five year olds he had everything short of the kitchen sink on his list. After his first list, he wrote me a note in five year old hand writing. He said if Santa Claus can t get me the stuff on my list, it was okay and that he would understand. He said he knows that Santa Claus is in big demand this Christmas.
In his note, he wrote about a friend who doesn t have very much. He said he was very worried about him and did not want him to be sad on Christmas. He told Santa Claus that his and his friend s list were pretty much the same but he wanted to be sure that if Santa Claus fell short on his gifts this year that he make sure he take care of his friend first because he doesn t have very much and that he wants him to be happy this Christmas!
The same little boy right before Thanksgiving went door-to-door for his local food pantry because he heard his mother saying that it was almost empty. He collected almost 2 boxes of nonperishable food.
As we continue to navigate through the holiday season, let s not lose sight of what this time of year is supposed to be about. Whether you are Christian or not, it is a time for reaching out and letting people know that you care. It s a time for building bridges and not walls in human relationships. It s time for making attempts at mending fractured relationships not widening the gap.
Our children become what they see. As adults, we need to be positive role models. We probably need to work harder at compassion, respect and understanding. Christmas Magic and the little five-year-old are two wonderful reminders that the world is a better and a bit brighter place because of their random acts of kindness and compassion.