We can do a lot by giving just a little

The trees are bare, the air is turning cold and the longest, darkest days of winter are imminent.

        For many families in years past, the arrival of winter meant buying new coats and gloves, filling the crockpot, dialing up the thermostat and tossing an extra blanket on the bed. Happy holidays typically followed, and the new year brought warm wishes and bright plans for the coming months.

        But this year is different for many of those families. This time, winter approaches as Michigan is reaching the most difficult time in this recession so far. The unemployment rate in our state is above 15 percent, many thousands have lost their homes, the poverty rate is climbing and our local and state resources are stretched far beyond thin.

        These days and this winter are likely to be remembered and talked about by our children for many years to come, especially our children with not enough to eat or no place to live or warm clothes to protect them.

        These may be our hardest, darkest days, and while there certainly are bright spots to which we can — and do — point, it’s difficult for many to see past this present storm. The better times that are sure to come do not fill the bellies of the people who are hungry today. And many are hungry.

        Good people in your community are working hard to help feed, clothe and provide shelter for your unfortunate friends and neighbors, for that is what great communities do in times of crisis. You may not be able to help or to give as much as you used to, but don’t let that be a reason not to give at all.

        If you can’t spare $10, give $5. If you can’t spare $5, give a dollar. If you can’t spare a dollar, give one or two of your extra coats or a can of food.

        There are food drives going on all around the area, and your local food bank desperately needs whatever you can give in food or money. Think how much food we could provide if everyone who is able donated one or two non-perishable food items every week.

        Your utility company accepts donations to help provide needy people with heat and lights when you pay your bill each month. Think how many people we could keep warm if everyone who is able contributed an extra $5 every month.

        The Salvation Army and other groups are collecting coats, hats, scarves and boots right now to provide to the needy. Think how many families could be insulated from the icy wind if everyone who is able dropped off a spare coat and some boots.

        The United Way is conducting its annual fundraising drive right now, and the agency supports many others that do all kinds of good work in the community. Think how many people could be helped if everyone who is able gave just $5 a week.

        Everyone is making do with less these days. Some have very little. Others have nothing.

        And yet, if we think about it, we still have enough in our communities for everyone. All it takes is for everyone to give a little, and keep giving a little for as long as it takes.

        If we do that, we can get through the frigid winds and bitter snow of this economic winter and celebrate together when the spring of recovery finally arrives.