As 2009 draws to a close, we again find our attention focused on holiday festivities, end of year obligations and the desire to join in the celebrations. However, this has been a very challenging year for many South Jersey residents and countless Americans across the country. The economic outlook for the foreseeable future is unclear. Unemployment is unacceptably high. Small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open and employees working. And personal savings are quickly being strained. It is an understandably difficult time for some residents to feel joyous during this holiday season. However, we can often find comfort and strength in focusing on the simpler things closer to home.
As we celebrate the holiday season with Christmas music, decorations and holiday parties fully on display, it is important for each of us to put our families, friends and neighbors front and center. It is in these challenging times that we must rely on each other; focus on the values and quality interactions that can be found at the dinner table or in the living room; and look to the simpler, inexpensive activities to bring the holiday spirit into our homes. And it should be remembered that we do not always need the latest electronics or "hot item' toy to capture the holiday spirit or participate in the season.
Likewise, this is also the time of year for which we are asked to give generously to those in greatest need in our communities. At any given time, the need for charity far exceeds what is readily available. During these challenging economic times, the need is multiplied and charitable organizations are overwhelmed with requests. While financial contributions may not be possible for some to give this year, the donations of our time along with traditional contributions of food, clothing and blood make measurable difference in many lives. Like spending time with our families and friends, our mere presence is often equally as valuable as the material possessions we bring.
Thus, as we gather with family and friends in the coming days, let us focus on the true meaning of the season. We should be mindful of those who are less fortunate even during better economic times. We should take time to remember those who make our communities better and those who seek to make the world safer, in particular, our dedicated servicemen and women who are away from their homes this holiday season. We have experienced many challenging times as a nation before as we do again now, but history has repeatedly proven that we find a way forward. Let us use this time to look towards the next year with cautious optimism and hope.