December 31, 2012

Cheers and Jeers: Dec. 31, 2012


---- — CHEERS, as the holiday season wraps up, to all the people who exhibited generosity, from anyone who threw a few pennies in the Salvation Army kettles to those who paid off the entire layaway bills for some local families. And the spirit of giving isn’t just about money; Cheers, too, to all the people who volunteered in some way over the past few months to make Thanksgiving, Christmas and other celebrations special for people who wouldn’t have much enjoyment in their lives.

We will be publishing our annual Holiday Helpers page soon, so we can give credit — though unrequested — to more of the people who participated in community-service projects. But we wanted to share Cheers today for two acts that show that kindness has no restrictions on size and scope.

First, a tip of the hat to Jason and Kira Witherwax and Randy and Leeanne Pray and their families and friends, who organized and hosted a community dinner on Christmas Day at the Harkness Methodist Church Hall. Rather than stay home, the Keeseville residents shared the joys of the day by cooking and serving a complete ham dinner, with desserts. About 60 people enjoyed the free feast. This is the second year the meal has been held, and all the food items were donated by family members. A great deal of hard work goes into planning and carrying out a community service like this, and it started because the Witherwax and Pray families wanted to teach their young children about giving and sharing.

Second, we give a nod to Jessie Furnia, who wanted to let her 2-year-old daughter, Cece, know what is was like to make random people happy and show some Christmas spirit. Jessie bought lottery tickets and made homemade gifts to randomly give away to strangers. She had Cece hand the gifts to people and say “Merry Christmas.” The reaction was surprise — and big smiles. One family was lucky enough to scratch off a $50 lottery, and the woman cried, saying it was a heartwarming surprise. Jessie’s mother, Sandra Pelkey, said she had taught her children, from an early age, that it is better to give than receive.

“Jessie put it into action,” Sandra said, “and the pleasure she got from it was more than she could have imagined. It’s heartfelt love for people that is important, and the joy we get from giving is so special. Words cannot describe how it makes you feel. All the presents in the world will not make you as happy as giving at random to make someone’s holiday bright.”

We think that sums up the intent of the holiday season perfectly. How wonderful it would be if all families taught their children, right from the start, to care so selflessly about others.

— If you have a Cheers and Jeers suggestion that you want the Editorial Board to consider, email it to Editor Lois Clermont at