'Tis the Season of Giving

'Tis the Season of Giving

Give a little bit

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November through December is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are back to back, and even if you aren't religious Christmas has become more of an American cultural tradition rather than just a religious event.

While you catch up on your favorite Christmas movies, listen to 'All I Want For Christmas' on repeat, and wrap away, please don't turn a blind eye to those in need.

I am so fortunate to not have to worry about if there will be a roof over my head, if I will have food to eat, or if there is someone who cares.

But not everyone is as lucky.

If you're in the spirit of giving but don't know how to help someone in need, here's a list of possible ways you can make someone's Christmas a bit brighter.

  • Fill a backpack up with thick socks, gloves, a hat, and non-perishable goods. If you live in or near a major city give them to homeless people-many lack shoes, let alone a good pair of socks, and in the winter months the risk of frostbite or hypothermia is too great for us to ignore.
  • Be a Secret-Santa for a family who is struggling to make ends meet. Whether it be through your local church or just a family on Facebook, there are thousands of families scrounging up pennies to buy their kid one gift. You'll be taking the burden off the parents' back and making the holiday season a bit merrier for children in need.
  • Donate to your local Ronald-McDonald House! Ronald McDonald Houses house families and their sick children so that they aren't separated during treatments. Whether you're donating gifts, food, or money, anything helps!
  • Pay for someone's coffee! It is a small act of kindness, but it can go a long way.

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Here's Why You Shouldn't Donate to The Salvation Army This Holiday Season (Or Ever)

No, I’m not a grinch or a scrooge. I’m just a member of the LGBT+ community that is tired of seeing my community suffer at the hands of organizations that are supposed to help us.
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The holiday season is upon us, bringing mall Santas, twinkling lights, and the well-known bell ringers with their red buckets stationed outside busy department stores. The Salvation Army is a mainstay in the memories of our childhood holidays. I remember a number of years where my parents would give each of my sisters and I a handful of change to put in the shiny red bucket as we walked into Wal-Mart to shop for our family Christmas dinner. On the surface, the Salvation Army is an organization with good intentions of helping the less fortunate, especially during the holiday season. However, a quick Google search exposes the organization’s discriminatory practices.

The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian denomination and an international charitable organization. Their mission statement, as stated on their website, reads: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Despite their insistence of nondiscriminatory practices, however, there have been several instances of discrimination, specifically against members of the LGBT+ community. In July 2017, a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn, New York, was found by the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) to be discriminating. Three other centers in New York City were also cited as being discriminatory. Violations within the four centers included refusing to accept transgender people as patients or tenants, assigning trans people rooms based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their lived gender identity, unwarranted physical examinations to determine if trans people are on hormone therapy or have had surgery, and segregating transgender patients into separate rooms. The NYCCHR had been tipped off about the mistreatment, and testers from the commission went to the cited centers and found clear evidence of the mistreatment. One of the clinics told the testers outright, “No, we don’t [accept transgender patients].” Another clinic’s representative said, “People with moving male parts would be housed with men.”

This isn’t the first time the Salvation Army has discriminated specifically against transgender people. In 2014, a transgender woman from Paris, Texas fled her home due to death threats she received related to her gender identity. The police told her, “Being the way you are, you should expect that.” She went to Dallas and found emergency shelter at the Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, run by the Salvation Army. The emergency shelter allowed her to stay for 30 days. Towards the end of her 30-day stay, she began looking for other long-term shelter options. One option many of the other women staying in the shelter had recently entered was a two-year housing program also run by the Salvation Army. When the woman interviewed for the program, she was told she was disqualified for the program because she had not had gender reassignment surgery. The counselor for the program later claimed there was a waiting list, but it came out that two women who arrived at the emergency shelter after the transgender woman had already entered the program. The transgender woman filed a complaint with Dallas’s Fair Housing Office, which protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. She was able to find other housing through the Shared Housing Project, a project that aims to find transgender people with housing who are willing to support those without.

The Salvation Army’s Christian affiliation drives the organization’s statements and beliefs. The church has a page on its website dedicated to its decided stance on the LGBT+ community that seems to paint a nice picture. Their actions, however, tell a different story. There have been several accounts reporting the Salvation Army’s refusal of service to LGBT+ people unless they renounce their sexuality, end same-sex relationships, or, in some cases, attend services “open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline.” The church claims it holds a “positive view of human sexuality,” but then clarifies that “sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.” This belief extends to their staff, asking LGBT+ employees to renounce their beliefs and essentially their identity in order to align with the organization. The Salvation Army believes that “The theological belief regarding sexuality is that God has ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and sexual activity is restricted to one’s spouse. Non-married individuals would therefore be celibate in the expression of their sexuality.” Essentially, gay people can’t get married. Unmarried people can’t have sex. Therefore, gay people are forbidden from being intimate with one another. This is unfair to ask of any employee, especially considering that one’s relationship status does not interfere with how well anyone can do their job.

If you are still looking to donate to a non-homophobic and transphobic organization this holiday season, here are some great pro-LGBT+ organizations with outreach similar to that of the Salvation Army:

  • Doctors Without Borders: medical and emergency relief
  • Habitat for Humanity: homelessness and housing
  • Local homeless shelters: search the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website for shelters near you!
  • Local food bank: find your local food bank through Feeding America here.
  • The Trevor Project: a leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT+ young people ages 13-24.
Cover Image Credit: Ed Glen Today

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Holiday Block Leave For The Army Was Just Too Good To Be True

"When something looks too good to be true, it usually is." -Emmy Rossum

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Everyone enjoys the times where their soldier gets to come home. The multitude of dates, romantic gestures, and the simple fact that you get to spend time with your soldier feels like a dream.

You get to finally have your best friend back, and for about two weeks, you don't get that feeling of loneliness. I remember feeling extremely happy seeing my soldier smile and laugh with me over the silliest of things and thinking to myself that I missed moments like this. I also loved getting dolled up and going out to eat at some of our favorite places. Yet again, my heart and stomach were more than satisfied, I caught myself swooning about how the entirety of these events was dreamlike.

The first week flew by so fast. I blinked, and next thing you know he is packing up some of his things. I realized within the two-week time period I had already grown accustomed to him again. I had gotten overly attached, and I honestly did not know how to feel about it. I clearly did not want him to leave, but he had to. I felt myself growing irritated near the end of holiday block leave because I guess I felt there was nothing I could do to keep these insanely wonderful moments going. I knew that once he left it would be back to the routine of never-ending work and stress.

I was not ready for college to start back at this point. He wasn't ready to be brain fried from butt loads of work either, but my soldier has more determination than I sometimes. I am working on my determination and motivation, but I still will forever cry when stressed, or when I feel I have no control over a situation. I tried so hard to hold back the tears this time around, but it just couldn't be done. I did not breakdown I just shed a tear or two, so I can say I have improved.

It's just so hard.

I loved seeing him for those two weeks, but at the same time, it sucks because it's like we're being teased. We get to spend time with our military loved ones, but it's for such a short amount of time. Of course, we lived it to the fullest, but that doesn't make his leaving any easier.

Now, I'm just counting down the days until he gets another leave and I get to spend that time with him again.

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