Texas Times: The Giving Season

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Dec. 18, 2007, 6:20am

The familiar red kettles and ringing bells at shopping areas across Texas this Christmas season are symbols of generosity to the less fortunate. In the Lone Star State, this holiday tradition originated from the spirit and determination of one man, a new Texan whose career led him from the navy to the army-the Salvation Army.

A captain in the Italian navy, Adam Janelli witnessed the Salvation Army's work in Calcutta, India. The outreach he saw made a permanent impression. After he emigrated to the U.S. and eventually to Dallas, Janelli was determined to establish the Salvation Army there.

That was nearly 120 years ago. The Salvation Army of Texas credits Janelli as its founder. He began sending letters and petitions to international Salvation Army founder Gen. William Booth: "His letter barrage got so thick that the official word was given and the Salvation Army of Texas opened in 1889."

At first, Janelli preached on street corners. "Janelli gave both material and spiritual help to the poor and homeless," reports the Salvation Army, "and to the people of Dallas he became known as 'Mr. Salvation Army.' The people of Dallas could not recall a time that they did not see Janelli in his uniform. Many people doubted he had any other clothes in his possession."

One man on a Dallas corner eventually rippled out to communities throughout Texas, where the Salvation Army carries out its work today. Janelli is described as "one of the most unassuming Salvation Army personalities Texas and the United States has ever known."

Texas has countless organizations, large and small, founded and staffed by men and women like Adam Janelli. Their selflessness and service, and their willingness to share with those in need, provides an inspiration to all. The urgency of human need takes on greater visibility at year's end, and leads to broad support for the red kettles, Blue Santa and Brown Santa programs, Toys for Tots, food and clothing drives, and other efforts to help people.

The holiday period is a vital time for giving. Our collective generosity now is crucial to the year-round work of many nonprofit organizations, including churches. Many receive most of their annual contributions in the final three months of the year, "the giving season."

Texans are compassionate year-round, but more recently, the introduction of tax deductions for charitable giving has provided yet one more incentive for doing good works, especially at year's end.

While the government can provide a safety net under those who need assistance, there is no substitute for the loving, caring attention of a volunteer. Private efforts are particularly effective in combating hunger, poverty and homelessness.

If a need exists, a willing heart will usually move to help. This includes in education, health care, care for our troops and veterans, and an array of other endeavors at home and abroad. Giving of ourselves is an essential part of the real meaning of Christmas.

There are many faces of need in our world. Sometimes we see them, but often we do not. Nonprofit organizations help identify and call attention to unrecognized and unmet needs wherever they exist. They are on the front lines.

Twenty years ago, President Reagan noted that personal charity provides universal benefits. "And very often, it's the giver who receives the most precious gift," he said. "Personal, private charity humanizes a society. It makes us more aware of each other, of our hopes and needs, and of our sorrows and our joys." For those of us who are blessed to live in this great state, those are words to remember.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee's Airland subcommittee. Cornyn served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice and Bexar County District Judge. For Sen. Cornyn's previous Texas Times columns: http://cornyn.senate.gov/column

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