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Editorial: Don't be fooled into thinking we don't help each other
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Omega Psi Phi Fraternity's Athens-Gainesville chapter has volunteered at M&M Down Home Catering's Thanksgiving Day Community Feed for six years. - photo by Kelsey Podo

If you read social media, listen to talking heads on television and watch political advertising, it’s easy to come away with the impression that our nation is hopelessly divided in dozens of different ways and has in some fashion suffered an irreparable splintering of its social fabric.

The supposed dividing lines are so numerous as to make it hard to keep up with their intertwining elements of heated debate. Republican vs. Democrat. Black vs. White. Rich vs. poor. Immigrant vs. native born. Management vs. labor. Environmentalists vs. business. Capitalists vs. socialists. Tribe vs. tribe. Good vs. evil.

The shrillness of the voices raised in angry rhetoric are enough to leave us convinced that we are at the precipice of another civil war, with the collapse of all we hold dear just around the next corner.

Except that’s not necessarily the way it looks down on “Main Street” in communities like ours all across America, where stories of neighbors helping neighbors, friends standing up for friends, and residents pulling together to make their communities better are the norm, not the exception.

That is never truer than it is during the holiday season, and especially this year, when even the raging winds of a political tempest and the fear of an international pandemic cannot destroy the community spirit and goodwill that are evident from Thanksgiving to New Years Day.

We’re looking for the helpers

This year has been a tough time for us all, but beyond the pandemic, politics, protests, economic woes and general upheaval of 2020, there have been an incredible number of acts of human kindness worthy of recognition. Please share with us your stories of great kindness, and we will publish some of them for all to enjoy during the holiday season. Email to news@gainesvilletimes.com with the subject line “Helpers.” Include your city of residence and a phone number so a reporter can follow up. Photos can also be submitted.

Think there is no goodwill out there to appreciate, no concern for fellow man, no willingness to set aside differences for the common good? Think again.

Sometimes we just need a reminder of how special people can be when they work together, across lines of division, to accomplish something good. And during the holidays, those examples are all around us.

Consider just a few of the stories found in this publication in recent days:

· Hall County firefighters, for the fifth consecutive year, raised more money for the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation through the annual “Give Burns the Boot” campaign that any other fire department in the state. The firemen made the effort, but it was the people of the community who filled the boots with some $96,000. Despite the economic ravages of Covid-19, the sum is the most ever collected in one year in the county.

· The local Hispanic Alliance provided food to more than 700 families during a drive-thru food distribution on Nov. 21. While it hurts to realize so many families are in need of help, it is also encouraging to know that donations from businesses and individuals and the willingness of volunteers makes it possible to help meet the needs of those who otherwise might be hungry.

· During November, the United Way of Hall County helped senior adults learn to cope with COVID-19 with a series of live webinars tailored specifically to educating them about the disease and helping with both mental and physical health issues. The series is just one of the many things done by those working with United Way to help local residents throughout the year.

· Groups across the county worked to make Thanksgiving meals possible for those who might otherwise have done without, all made possible by the willingness of people to donate money and volunteer time to help others. The Latin American Missionary Program, Under the Bridge Ministries, M&M Down Home Catering and of course, Good News at Noon, were among groups providing hot meals for the holiday, thanks to the largesse of others.

· Feeding the needy is also the purpose of the Family Food Market, operated by Family Promise, and a number of other area food pantries organized by local charities and churches. Many of these efforts are made possible thanks to the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, which does an incredible job of helping to provide for the needy not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. It can do so only because of the generous support of donors.

· Helping to meet a different kind of need is the annual Toys for Tots drive, which thanks to the generosity of supporters and the efforts of volunteers will be providing Christmas cheer for hundreds of children throughout the area before December’s end. Toys for Tots locations are popping up all around the area as the annual Marine Corps collection and distribution drive gets ready for a December rush.

This certainly is not an all-inclusive list, but rather just the smallest sample of the many good things happening throughout our community during the holidays. Church groups, civic organizations, charities, businesses and individuals are doing what they can to help others in hundreds of different ways, far too many to list in this space.

Ours truly is a community blessed by the generous, philanthropic hearts of those who want to help others, and to make the area in which they live a better place as a result. Those efforts are ongoing, and deserving of recognition year-around, not just during the holiday season.

And if, like the Grinch ultimately realized, you want to make your heart grow a little, find a way you can help one of the many dozens of local efforts that reflect neighbor helping neighbor, rather than neighbor vs. neighbor.

A nation at a crossroads, split apart by any number of divisive factors pitting neighbor against neighbor? It’s hard to accept that as reality down on our “Main Street,” and the same is true in communities across the country. Let’s focus on that as holiday news worth sharing, with nothing fake about it.

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