Every organization that conducted a charity drive this holiday season and every citizen that was able to help can feel good about themselves for reaching out and helping those in need in the community.

But now some hard questions should be asked by all of us. Why, after decades of giving and billions of dollars in aid, food, clothing, toys, etc., hasn’t the needle moved much at all?  Why does it seem that we are like Sysiphus, doing the same thing over and over, year after year?

There are the easy answers such as too many people are in tough economic straits, many through no cause of their own, such as loss of employment or a health crisis. Keizer for the most part is well off; many of our households have incomes higher than other parts of our region. In contrast, Marion County has the highest level of child poverty in the state of Oregon.

There is no question there is a need for the programs that gather and distribute to those less fortunate. Before the next season of giving comes around again we should ask ourselves if we are doing the best thing.

Food is necessary. No one should live in a food insecure world, especially children. Good nutrtion is key to proper growth and education. Donating food baskets is good. Donating toys makes for a happier holiday for children. But would we better serve these children if for every toy donated a quality book would have to be donated, too?  If a child in need requests the hottest toy of the season they should also receive a classic work of literature. We should be feeding our childrens minds as well as their bodies.

We should commit ourselves to assuring that kids of all ages are receiving the types of books they can read and get excited about. It may be a cliche that a book opens the world to a child, but it does. Next season let’s give children a holiday meal, a sturdy toy and a copy of “Huckleberry Finn” or “Moby-Dick.”

Let us be the generation that breaks the chain that has been unbroken for too long.   —LAZ