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When it's time for giving, we all come through

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A bit of news came out during the past week that has to make a lot of us proud to be Americans, proud to be part of a culture that does what it can to help those less fortunate — even when our own chips may be down.

The Charities Aid Foundation, which reports annually on charitable giving throughout the world, reported that the United States is now ranked number one in the world for charitable giving despite the fact our economy still is in the doldrums. A year ago the United States ranked fifth in the world.

The World Giving Report of 2011 states that "The USA had been ranked fifth in 2010, and has risen to first this year. It has shown a steady increase in each of the three measures over the past year, ranging from four percentage points 'volunteering time' and to eight percentage points 'helping a stranger.' It is this even progress across all three measures that has caused the country to rise to the top of the Index."

That may not be something that will be touted in any upcoming election campaign speech or even widely broadcast in this or any other country, but I think it's pretty cool. So do Charities Aid Foundation officials, apparently.

Said CAFAmerica Interim CEO David Venne, "In spite of economic hardships and uncertainty in the future, the American spirit is caring and strong, as these survey findings clearly show. For almost 20 years, CAFAmerica has worked to shine the light on global giving and encourage U.S. donors to support communities and causes beyond our borders. The generosity of the American spirit expands beyond the U.S. with 5 percent of American charitable monies flowing overseas. Our organization is helping U.S. donors connect in a lasting way with communities around the world. The results of the World Giving Index 2011 survey show that China, Russia and India are among those near the bottom of the list. Our experience shows that these countries benefit enormously from U.S. philanthropy."

For more about the ranking and to view the report go to

What better time for this report to come out than at Christmas? That's especially true when we see other reports out there that indicate charitable giving is also rising this holiday season, a time when the plight of others stands out.

These kinds of reports help put into perspective what the season is really about. They help most of us realize we should be thankful for what we have and that we are able, in ways large or small, to help others. Maybe thinking about that will change the tunes of those who complain about Christmas shopping (I admit, I am one of those) and bemoan the fact the holidays have become so commercial that's all we think about (yep, guilty there, too.)

Oh, well, off my soapbox.

The past year has been a roller coaster ride for me and my family, with some big changes. The biggest for me has been starting a new career, leaving the newspaper after nearly 30 years and helping Julie Russell and the team here at AdCo Advertising start The Peorian. I'm putting in some crazy long hours and working my tail off, but I am having fun. That's key for me. This is probably the closest I'll ever come to starting a business so the long hours and the steep learning curve is no surprise. But I am enjoying it.

The second biggest change is that my wonderful mother has moved here from my hometown of Vincennes, Inc. None of my siblings live there anymore, either, and Mom realized it was time she not be alone. Now 79 and a three-time survivor of cancer, she wanted to be nearer to family and I am the lucky one — not only because Mom chose to move here, but because my wonderful and beautiful wife is so loving and has made her feel so welcome.

Then we got a nice early Christmas gift from God a few days ago when we learned that Mom's heart valve problem is not as serious as originally believed and she will not need surgery immediately.

Our children, their spouses and significant others and our grandchildren have been well this past year, at least on the whole. Daughter Kimberly and daughter-in-law Jen both got promotions, son Eric now has a New York agent who is getting him some auditions. Stepson Steven has started writing a blog about the St. Louis Cardinals — the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals — that even the Cardinal players are reading and responding to, and stepdaughter Jessica landed a teaching job in Rockford.

Grandson Ethan continues to battle some health issues he's had since birth, but we see progress all the time and his spirit remains high.

Gabby finally talks with me and will even come to me now instead of screaming when she sees my ugly mug and she and Sue are bonding like a grandma and granddaughter should.

The older, school-aged grandchildren continue to excel and make us very proud.

Regarding my siblings, little brother Mike and his wife Ashton recently welcomed a new son, Bram. He's healthy and cute; what more could you want?

I won't go on and on. Suffice it to say 2011 has been pretty good overall and 2012 promises to be, as well. More changes will occur, of course — some good, some bad — and we will handle each as it comes.

Merry Christmas.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).