A friend of mine always left the lights draped on his front steps all year. He'd put in red and white for St Valentine's Day or green and white for St Patricks Day. I think he skipped St Swithin's Day. That brought new definition to the whole "Holiday Lights" argument.
Some icons of the season are best put away sooner rather than later. There's a Santa down the street that's taken on a distinct Detroit lean. The interior light can't make the corner so his beard never did light properly. Now, a week after Christmas he's just a wobbly fat man with a brown beard in a bad red suit. He needs to be down.
Snowmen have a longer shelf life. They can stay up until the Winter Wonderland wears out its welcome. By the time the boy's basketball tourney rolls into town the snowmen are just a mirror of the gray slush hanging from the wheel wells of the Buick. Frosty the Fenderberg, as it were.
Some of the holiday spirit should last longer, though. There are no good reasons to let that feeling of goodwill to fade along with the taking down of lights. Let this be the time to decide to make a difference by committing to a local effort to make life better. If you need some suggestions here are mine. (If you think you don't, please reread the paragraph above.)
- Literacy. There are literacy programs in most every county and they need your help. Two or three hours a week can be the difference in helping someone to learn to read a story to their grandchild or to help someone get the job that takes them off the public dole and lets them support their family. To find the program nearest you contact Wisconsin Literacy in Madison. They can connect you with a local program that needs your help.
- American Red Cross. Still the big mack daddy of helping people. They are always in need of donations of money, of blood, and of time. Give freely of all of these. There is still no better way to turn your good intentions into good works than the Red Cross. You say you have a problem with the Red Cross? Get over yourself. People need your help. Now.
- The Heifer Project. This one requires money more than involvement but is a great way to involve friends and family. Your donation buys an animal to help a family become self sufficient. Whether you donate enough for a heifer or for a hutch of rabbits you can make a difference.
- Your local community fund. Every town has one. They go by many names. They always need help. It's a great way to meet your neighbors and for you to do those things you've always said, "Somebody oughtta do." Let it be you.
Just because the tinsel is ground into the carpet and Dick Clark is back in storage doesn't mean that the spirit of giving should stop. There is no statute of limitations on the holiday spirit. Jacob Marley told me so.