The best of the human spirit is on full display at this time of year. Indoors and outdoors, in public and in private, on a grand scale and in the most miniscule ways.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, people are good, and they seem to show the premium side of their personality when frost blotches the stubble fields, when darkness chases the school bus down the road late in the afternoon and when smoke curls from the chimney in a circuitous battle with the cold air outside.
We've seen hunters stop and help a fellow whose car was stuck in the soft soil off the side of the road. They missed out on some precious daylight to do so, but they'd spend half an hour assisting a guy they know nothing more about than his first name and his inability to keep a Ford Focus on the paved portion of the road.
Calls from churches, military organizations, soup kitchens and other charities seem to multiply each year, yet they are always met with unbridled generosity. Toys, food, winter coats, blankets, books and personal hygiene items are donated by the millions in the best brand of giving that from total strangers.
They have no gain to enjoy from this giving, no photo-op for the front page of the paper, no tax deduction to take on their 1040 form. They give simply because it's the right thing to do and the human conscience tells them so.
We have numerous hunters and hunting groups from around the country that donate the game they harvest to veteran's hospitals and food banks and relief services sponsored by religious groups. In many cases, the processors donate their services and handle and package the donated meat free of charge.
For every pepper spray incident between shoppers fighting over a $59 TV at Wal-Mart, there are thousands of charitable actions that go unreported. It is nice to be part of a society where giving is so commonplace that it is not spectacular or unusual. It is just what so many people do.
How we care for each other says so much about who we are. That is good cause to be proud, but most don't take the time. Giving and caring is an expectation that comes from the soul, with no exclamation point and no spotlight.
As the world around us grows more harsh, more unforgiving and more entrenched in the ideological mud, people seem to maintain their kindness towards others that resides in their core. They don't put stipulations on their giving or attach restrictions based on political leanings, faith practices or economic data.
Help in most cases comes in a big package without a single string attached. It is not blind to the flaws of the world and the chance that a less-than-deserving individual might be on the receiving end, but instead the charity of the season comes with eyes wide open and 360-degree vision.
This isn't a sappy plea for all of us to break out in a joyous chorus of Up With People, because some of us prefer "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" since we know there is too much good around for such a character to exist. Plus, where else can you sing the line: "You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich, with arsenic sauce" and have it make so much sense.
But we can, indeed, all get along. We prove it just about this time every year. Some of us get charged with being perpetually adolescent around Christmas, and we happily plead guilty. We just have to figure out how to keep the behavior from being seasonal.
If we can shelve the strident political viewpoints, dismount from our perch on the high horse and take off the opinion-colored glasses, the world suddenly becomes a cheerier place and a much better place. It shouldn't take Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza to expose the compassion in all of us, because it is housed there year round.
Matt Markey is the A-T outdoors columnist.
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