WESTBROOK — It is that time of the year once again for the chaos of consumption.

Time for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and overextended credit. It’s the time of the year to overindulge in food and drink.

We struggle to pick the perfect gifts to show our love for one another. By spending more, we hope to express how much we care, when in reality love has nothing to do with money or material goods.

In the mid-1950’s when I was 8 years old, I wanted a Robbie the Robot for Christmas. It was a plastic, battery-operated toy that moved across a flat surface with eyes that lit up and arms that moved up and down.

It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. There were commercials for Robbie on Saturday morning TV and it was featured in the Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs, which I studied diligently when they arrived in the mail.

Christmas morning came and I got a Davy Crockett coonskin hat and a Mickey Mouse wallet, but no robot.

I was quiet and tried to be grateful. Sitting across the formica kitchen table from my mother, she matter-of-factly told me it was time for me to understand there was no Santa Claus.

I said nothing and tried to stifle the tears rolling down my face. That was the year I learned we cannot always get what we desire.

I continued to love the holidays and chased the dream of what I thought they should be. As I got consumed by the commercialization, I forgot the true meaning I had learned in Sunday School. To celebrate the birth of hope, love one another, and to give to those less fortunate.

As an adult, I became a lapsed Christian and an agnostic. I admired the teachings of the man whose birth we celebrated, but I also found solace in the teachings of other prophets who all taught us to love one another and try to alleviate the suffering of others. I still sought the perfect gift to prove my love and joined the orgy of spending.

In the twilight of my life, the blatant consumerism at this time of the year fills me with revulsion.

Do we really need another big screen TV or cell phone that does everything except help us communicate better with one another? Do we endlessly shop for overpriced gifts that are made by the hands of children on the other side of the world that will never be used by the intended recipient?

I learned early that I did not need a plastic robot to feel fulfilled. The perfect gift is being of service to others.

Homelessness and hunger are the plight of many in Maine.

The number of people without adequate shelter has grown larger with the current economic crisis. These include men, women and children of all ages.

It is a frightening reality that many working poor and even middle-class people live one or two paychecks away from being homeless.

The sick, the mentally ill and the chemically dependent constantly face being without food or adequate shelter.

Fourteen percent of Maine households are food insecure, meaning they lack access to enough food to insure adequate nutrition. One in six children in Maine go to bed hungry. Forty percent of the food-insecure population do not qualify for food stamps.

The story goes that the historic Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room for his parents in the inn. He was born humble and homeless.

As an adult he championed the poor and destitute. He fed the hungry and gave counsel to the spiritually bankrupt.

Do we remember the homeless, hungry and disenfranchised at this time of the year?

True humility is doing something kind and unselfish for someone and not telling anyone about it.

The perfect gift. Peace on Earth, good will to all.

— Special to the Press Herald