Here are some thoughts from a guy who has the words “Dashing through the snow” resounding through his brain as he actually dashes through the snow.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Christmas and the spirit of the holiday. But when all you can get on the radio from mid-November on is Christmas music, it starts to wear on me. It’s no wonder Scrooge cried “Bah, humbug” by the time the big day actually arrived.

And it seems like every year, people put their holiday decorations up earlier and earlier. Maybe it was an omen recently when the heavy winds were whipping those inflatable Santa Clauses airborne around the neighborhoods.

“Look mommy! I just saw Santa fly past the front window. And he didn’t even need reindeer!”

But unlike the music and the decorations, there is one thing about Christmas that can never start too early. And that’s the spirit of giving.

I’m not talking about shopping for your children and grandchildren. As wonderful as it is to be able to give presents to the little people in our lives and watch their faces light up, I’m talking about giving to help people who can’t afford presents. I’m talking about giving to make sure that people actually have something to eat.

I attended a meeting of the division chairpersons for the United Way of Mercer County this past week. And while there was an optimistic tone in the room about the current fundraising drive, every one of us knows how difficult it will be to reach our $1 million goal.

The campaign had about 61 percent of its goal pledged as of last week. But there is still a long way to go. So if you really believe in Christmas, this would be a good time to give one of the best gifts of all to a spouse or a loved one. Instead of some present that really isn’t needed, give a check in the name of that person to United Way of Mercer County.

OK, I know your wife is really looking forward to that same pajamas and slippers you gave her last year. “Oh, are those the same ones? Sorry honey, but those dancing penguins are so cute!”

And I know Aunt Edna is counting on that five-pound fruitcake. Scientists tell us that when the end of the world comes, the only thing left will be cockroaches and fruitcakes. And even the cockroaches would rather starve than eat fruitcakes.

Working to raise funds for the United Way is rewarding. There are hundreds of volunteers who make it work, year in and year out. I was especially encouraged when I spoke to the staffs of Sharon Regional Health System and UPMC Horizon recently. They seem to be enthusiastic about the opportunity to help the cause. And the workers at Mercer County Housing Authority also seemed to open up to the thought that they had a chance to do more to help the needy. But as I looked down the long list of people and companies in this area who don’t give anything, it was embarrassing. People who can afford to give, businesses that actually make money off the people in this community, don’t give back to that community.

I can only hope that the spirit of Christmas gets to everyone this year and those who haven’t given in the past provide help this season. You don’t need to put on a red suit and white beard to play Santa Claus. You just need to drop a check in the mail to United Way of Mercer County at 300 W. State Street, Sharon, PA 16146.

And if you do, some little boy named Tiny Tim will stand on a wooden crutch at a dinner table somewhere and say: “God Bless us everyone!”

And the rest of us will say: God bless the givers!

Herald Sports Editor Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion page.

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