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Every year about this time folks are scurrying about gathering gifts for Christmas giving. Some have already overspent their budget.

Thanksgiving represents a couple of things. One is that we give thanks for having a warm, dry place to sleep and food to eat. We are thankful for the health and well-being of our families, and wish there hadn’t been as many tragedies over the last 12 months. Maybe next year will be better.

Thanksgiving also marks the official start of the shopping season. Store clerks will put in extra hours stocking shelves and collecting your money. Some shoppers will stay within their budgets, others won’t and will suffer when the bills come due.

Those who are frantically looking for that perfect gift — or most likely the best bargain — will just keep looking and being pushed around by other shoppers looking for the same thing. Or you can try and shop online and hope your delivery arrives when you want it. Either way, crushing crowds and overcrowded parking lots or frustrating online shopping programs, I hope you find what you want.

Thanksgiving is over and we are all eating turkey or ham sandwiches and leftover pumpkin pie. That is, except for the homeless and those who didn’t or couldn’t cook a big feed.

There seem to be a lot more homeless people visible on our streets lately, but it is the invisible poor that are the most forgotten. Many families are struggling to make ends meet, many are working multiple jobs just to provide the bare necessities for their families. Others appear to be taking advantage of our generosity.

I recently took a contribution to a local charity. As I approached the front door I saw a lot of people who obviously needed help queuing up for groceries. I also saw people in nice clothing with polished nails and nice hairdos loading their bag of food that had been collected for the needy who couldn’t afford new clothes.

The way I figure it, if they can afford store-bought clothing, hairdos and a shiny car, they should be contributing to the charity, not taking from those who really need it.

Lompoc is a caring community, but like many others the median income is barely enough to pay the rent. No matter what the minimum wage is, it is never enough have any extras. It’s been that way all my adult life. As wages increase so does the cost of living, including the rent. It almost seems like a cruel plot to keep people down.

I wish this Christmas season would be a game-changer for all those who are in need. Even though the homeless are sometimes a nuisance, they are our fellow human beings and deserve some compassion. Although I wouldn’t hand them money directly — because they may use it to buy tobacco, booze or drugs — I will continue to donate to charities and churches that provide for their needs.

For those of you who appear to be taking advantage of the situation, think about what you’re doing. Is it appropriate to take advantage of the community’s generosity just so you can spend your food allowance on nice-to-have things?

Maybe instead you could volunteer your time to help those other people in that line who really need it. But, if your conscience allows you to do this sort of thing, maybe you need better guidance.

Ron Fink is a local activist and can be reached at: