If, like me, you have a roof over your head, heat, light, internet and food, reflect for a moment on how fortunate we are.

Many people mistake their good fortune for virtue, believing themselves to be so lucky because of their “good choices,” but that is often far from the mark.  

During the Depression, my father’s family lived in a mountain village in rural Utah, had a roof over their head, some light and heat, but rarely enough food. No one was lazy, no one was in jail, they were just poor at a time when many, many people were also poor.  

My mother’s family lived in the benign climate of Southern California, where lemons and oranges grew in the backyard. No one was making poor choices, but food came courtesy of rationing coupons and women’s thrift and humble jobs they were glad to have. They had no home of their own and lived with a generous spinster friend of my Grandmother’s.

And of course, there are far harder lots. Today refugees stream out of the Middle East, leaving comfort and sometimes family behind: exhausted, frightened and focused on saving their children. Their reception once they land somewhere is… mixed at best.

In the city of Portland there are children in our schools who, once the bell rings to signal that school is out, have no warm place to go, no quiet refuge of food and shelter that we call home. They are homeless. Right here in River City.

And there are those who, although they have a warm shelter and food, are far from home. Ronald McDonald House offers them a place to wait out their child’s treatment, and most are very grateful for this kindness, but they are not home. Birthdays come and go, Christmas comes and goes, Hanukkah comes and goes, New Year comes and goes. Nearly everyone longs to be home at this wintery and celebratory time of year, but sometimes it’s just not in the cards.  

Think of all of them and be grateful. Eat together, turn up the heat, light the tree, snuggle under the covers, but be grateful. And if you have a religious Christian frame of reference for giving and sharing, remember: “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.”