Think of hurricane victims this holiday

By Taheerah Abdul-Rahmaan

What do you want for Christmas this year?

With “Black Friday,” the biggest shopping day of the year, looming in the near future, holiday shoppers are saving paychecks and applying for new credit cards to meet the wishful demands of this year’s Christmas and New Year’s season.

I can see it now: chain stores like Wal-Mart and Target, shopping malls and online businesses rubbing their hands together and licking their lips, savoring the routine economic mega-waves that hit their commercial businesses like clockwork.

Some scrooges turn their noses up at the Christmas holiday season in particular, citing the economic advantages that come to both government and retail business as a result of all the Christmas lovey-dovey. Still others see the irony in many people having holiday-season friendliness and post-holiday-season rudeness.

But I have a different reason for being cautious and wary this holiday season.

According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, there are still 138,000 households displaced from New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Yeah, it’s my intention to drop a dime on you, my beloved reader, because I was just getting comfortable in my newly remodeled Chicago bungalow home (thanks, Ikea).

I almost forgot about New Orleans, Mississippi and the various dislocated and families now temporarily residing in Rockford and DeKalb.

I was getting caught up in my day-to-day lifestyle again: studying for exams, going to business and organizational meetings, working, saving pennies to see 50 Cent’s movie, attending to boyfriend problems – you know, the usual.

Don’t be alarmed. There’s certainly nothing wrong with continuing on with your life, but as I read the Chicago Tribune article, I had to honestly ask myself if I was doing all I could to help people less fortunate than myself.

Isn’t that what the Christmas season is all about? Ending the year on a high note and channeling that positivism into good and noble things?

So I ask again, what do you want for Christmas this year? Or better yet, should the question be what can I do for someone for Christmas this year?

I suppose this may read a little more like an appeal than a column, and perhaps it crosses the line a bit more to the Sunday-morning sermon side of things than usual. After all, I’m no preacher, just a fifth-year senior anticipating graduation with a passion that sometimes scares me.

Forgive me, and please be understanding because I think that’s exactly the point.

I’m young and I don’t have a relative from New Orleans. The family and friends I have and cherish, that live in Mississippi, weren’t affected at all by the hurricane. I’ve never known homelessness, never witnessed true hunger and never had anything precious taken away from me.

And I think that makes me a perfect candidate to write the words you now read.

A fellow columnist, Joey Baskerville, wrote Nov. 7 about the need for a continuum of young peoples’ involvement on campus. And more broadly, if activist efforts are directed accurately, young people have the power to trigger change and write history.

Young people can defy the stereotypes which represent us as the caricatures of a sofa-loving, video-gaming, television-watching, drug-abusing, self-centered college student.

And Americans in general can smash the stereotypes this holiday season that paint us as headline-driven, short-attention-span sympathizers.

Even though the headlines have largely moved on to the other news, there are still fundraisers aimed at aiding Katrina victims who are in dire need of our support. There are still organizations for us to join that offer community-service initiatives and mentoring projects.

There are still countless homeless persons and hurricane survivors who, I’m sure, would appreciate that $50 gift card for Christmas far more than our cousins or best friends.

There is still more giving for all of us to do.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.