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Editorial: Open your heart as well as your presents to make lives better this Christmas Day

Christmas is here. The year sped by too quickly for some, and not fast enough for most children.

Nevertheless, the big day is here. And for those who observe the now time-honored, commercialized celebration, it means gifts. Loads and loads, maybe, or just that one special present.

For those fortunate families able to keep up with the latest craze – Hatchimals, anyone? – this is the day loved ones, especially the youngsters, anxiously anticipate what is under the tree. It may be socks and sweaters rather than a child’s electric car, but whatever it is comes from a warm place in the heart.

Santa Claus and his helpers have certainly been hard at work making the season merry.

But Christmastime is not a joyous occasion for everyone. Some of those among us don’t have warm clothing or enough to eat. Their daily struggle doesn’t leave room for worrying about getting a tree and packing gifts underneath it. Buffalo is one of the poorest big cities in the nation, with a shockingly high incidence of childhood poverty. Unfortunately, there is also more than enough poverty to go around in suburban and rural areas, no matter how the bright lights may fool us.

For these families, Christmas is an especially stressful time. There may be hardly enough money for the necessities – food, clothing and shelter. Yet their children are being fed a constant diet of ads for toys. It may be hard for those parents to explain to their young ones why they’re not getting what they want, or why they’re not getting anything at all.

These distressing situations are made easier each Christmas season thanks to the generosity of spirit from those who have the ability to give.

The News Neediest Fund will help about 12,000 families have a brighter Christmas this year. The fund is part of the Western New York Holiday Partnership, a collaboration of programs in Erie and Niagara counties. Cash donations are always welcome and may be made online at buffalonews.com/newsneediest or by mail to The News Neediest Fund, P.O. Box 2667, Buffalo, N.Y., 14240-9873.

The News Neediest Fund is but one of many worthy organizations serving the less fortunate. Whatever your favorite charity, consider donating money or time in the new year.

This is the time of year to consider other people. Not just those living with less, although that is a great place to start. It is also a good time to think about the wider world and the fact that not all of our neighbors are Christians. Some are Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or members of another religion. Others have no religion at all.

One of the wonderful things about living in America is our religious freedom. It is a precious right, among many, and not to be taken for granted. Religious freedom is one of the key principles that makes this nation great. We are made up of citizens who, for the most part, accept one another. We are not perfect, of course. This nation is not alone in having a troubling history and, at its worst, disturbing glimpses of intolerance. But that tends to be the exception, rather than the rule.

Today is the day to practice giving, and tolerance. And then keep practicing them.

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