Every year about this time folks are scurrying about gathering gifts for Christmas giving; some have already overspent their budget.

Thanksgiving represents a couple of things; one is that we give thanks for having a warm, dry place to sleep and food to eat. We are thankful for the health and well-being of our families, and wish there hadn’t been as many tragedies over the last 12 months. Maybe next year will be better.

Giving thanks includes “giving,” too; as food banks, churches and social clubs gear up for the holiday season they could use a helping hand. There are several ways to give: cash, turkeys/hams, canned goods, and even helping when dinner is served.

But Thanksgiving also marks the official start of the shopping season. Store clerks will put in extra hours stocking shelves and collecting your money. Some shoppers will stay within their budgets, others won’t and will suffer when the bills come due. So-called Black Friday sales will gobble up their dollars like confetti as they scramble from sale to sale.

Those who are frantically looking for that perfect gift, or most likely the best bargain, will just keep looking and being pushed around by other shoppers looking for the same thing. Or, you can try to shop online and hope your delivery arrives when you want it. Either way, crushing crowds and overcrowded parking lots or frustrating online shopping programs, I hope you find the perfect gift.

Thanksgiving has passed and we are all eating turkey or ham sandwiches and leftover pumpkin pie. That is, except for the homeless and those who didn’t or couldn’t cook a big feed. Vagabonds from the homeless population will be fed hearty meals and perhaps receive small gifts of fresh socks or clean clothing. Then they will wander off seeking shelter wherever they can find it.

Recently a nonprofit developer bought a 126-unit apartment complex and, using an interest-free loan, plans to convert it to house low-income families. Here is the irony: low-income people already live there, some just above the poverty rate established by the state. These folks will be tossed out and must try to find shelter elsewhere.

I wish that this Christmas season would be a game-changer for all those who are in need. Even though the homeless are sometimes a nuisance, they are our fellow human beings and deserve some compassion.

There seem to be many more homeless people visible on our streets lately, but it is the invisible poor who are the most forgotten. Many families are struggling to make ends meet, many are working multiple jobs just to provide the bare necessities for their families. But others appear to be taking advantage of our generosity.

Lompoc is a caring community, but like many others the median income is barely enough to pay the rent. No matter what the minimum wage is, it is never enough have any extras. It’s been that way all my adult life; as wages increase, so does the cost of living, including the rent. It almost seems like a cruel plot to keep people down.

I recently took a contribution to a local charity; as I approached the front door, I saw a lot of people who obviously needed help queuing up for groceries. But I also saw people in nice clothing with polished nails and nice hairdos who were driving newer model, shiny cars loading up their bags of food that had been collected for the needy.

The way I figure it, if they can afford store-bought clothing, hair-dos and a shiny car, well then, they should be contributing to the charity, not taking from those who really need it.

For those of you who appear to be taking advantage of the situation; think about what you’re doing. Is it appropriate to take advantage of the community’s generosity just so you can spend your food allowance on nice-to-have things?

Maybe instead you could volunteer your time to help those other people in that line who really needed it. But, if your conscience allows you to do this sort of thing, maybe you need better guidance.

Although I wouldn’t hand the homeless money directly, because they would likely use it to buy tobacco, booze or drugs, I will continue to donate to charities and churches that provide for their needs and those of impoverished families.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at news@noozhawk.com. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.