2020 has been bad. Really bad. So bad that we’re collectively and insanely tired of hearing about just how bad it has been and unfortunately, still is. The word “unprecedented” now prompts the same wincing reaction as nails across a chalkboard. The reminder of how terrible everything has become is the new need to escape physically, emotionally and mentally. 

 I have always enjoyed the coincidence of the holiday season (the most wonderful time of the year, if you ask Andy Williams) occurring at the end of the year. It’s as if even the calendar recognizes that after 300-some days of drudgery, we all deserve a break, an opportunity to melt into sweetness and envelope ourselves in magic. This especially rings true this year, where magic seems the only escape from the bad that has defined 2020.   

But what happens when magic is lost and happiness is a sheer facade that barely hides the sick truth of destruction at every turn? Is there any hope that holiday spirits can be saved and that the world can find cheer once again?

My goodness, this sounds like the typical plot to all of the classic Christmas movies, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not. This is our current, real-life plot, and not every angel gets its wings every time a bell rings, and not every problem finds a solution neatly wrapped under an impossibly perfect Christmas tree. (Honestly now, how is the tinsel always perfectly applied and evenly distributed in those old movies? How come the tinsel in Hollywood never looks clumpy and lopsided?)

In reality, magic only happens because we choose to believe in it — because we never see behind the proverbial curtain where the Clauses are frantically running the workshop on an impossible deadline while Mrs. Claus’ oven timer beeps nonstop, the elves are threatening a strike; and Santa is so caught up in calculating additional stops due to the ever-growing population of the human race, that he doesn’t even notice that half of the North Pole is melting away. He no longer hears Mrs. Claus when she declares that she’s “serious this time,” that “this is the last year we do this,” and she “couldn’t care less if Christmas was finally canceled.”  While that makes you giggle on this side of the story, imagine the bah-humbug season it would be if it weren’t for the few hard workers behind the scenes who truly understand that magic must be made to be enjoyed. 

The same is to be said for our local charities and organizations.

One of the most endearing characteristics of Key West and the Florida Keys is that beneath it all we truly have giving hearts for others in our community.  Time and again we come through for each other when the call to arms is sounded: helping clean up after storms, raising money for fellow locals when their hospital bills are overwhelming, even showing support for the delicate ecosystem we share with our resident wildlife. I know some people see these actions as untrue and self-sustained, or the bubba system at work, or just another argument to be politicized; but they are not. They are opportunities to prove our love for what we believe in, and to show our true character.  

As Sir Isaac Newton told us: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every terrible, there is a wonderful. For every need, there’s an organization or charity that’s looking to place a helpful solution under the tree. Now is the time to help create magic. Now is the time to rescue the Clauses and pull back on the reindeer reins of 2020. Now is the time to find what means most to you and give it attention.

Whether you care the most about your fellow human, a human’s best companion, or the island this one human family calls home, there is an organization locally that could use your help creating the magic that has been lost over the course of this painfully “unprecedented” year.  Organizations such as the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter, the Domestic Abuse Shelter, Reef Relief, Florida Keys SPCA, Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless, the MARC House, the SOS Foundation, Samuel’s House, Sister Season Fund are just a few of those magical problem solvers.  

There is no way to feature or highlight every helpful organization in one (or two) articles.  Normally I would feel badly stating that, but in this case I have never been happier to admit that there is no possible way I could comprehensively cover this topic.  It shows that there are a plethora of options for getting involved to create some magical holiday cheer. 

There are two types of gift-givers:  those who like to make a show of their gift-wrapping abilities, with their flawlessly tight corners and double-ribbon bows; and those who quietly leave a small gift bag with barely enough (if any) tissue paper haphazardly tucked on top.  As long as the gift comes from the heart with nothing but well wishes and good intentions, both are equally enchanting.

My gift for the Florida Keys this year is the ability to give praise and awareness for some of the organizations that are in need of support in order to continue their missions for good.  If you have the notion and desire, please look up any of the groups above and find out how to donate either your time or money. They each have websites that make donating a snap without leaving home or making a big deal of it. Next week, I will begin highlighting some of these organizations in more depth, and I hope you can all see the wonderful equal and opposite reactions that can be our 2021.

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