We put our faith in the adults around us because to do otherwise would be to embrace chaos. We put our faith in nonprofits and like institutions because we know how badly we need them to do the work they do.
Nearly thirty years later, my mom still won't tell me how that sack found its way under our tree. Maybe I don't really want to know; it lets me believe, if not in Santa, in the kindness of family, friends and possibly even strangers.
My mother had taught me the true spirit of Christmas, maybe not consciously, but she taught us, with what most consider a tough punishment, how it felt to put someone else's needs before our own selfishness.
Life, in its millions of manifestations, is essentially a variety of transactions. The transactions can be of many kinds -- between nations, cultures, individuals. There are transactions which are cellular, atomic and cosmic.
What bothers the right about "big government" should bother us about "supersized philanthropy." The growing power of philanthropists has begun to undercut our democracy and our democratic institutions.
The initial feelings that rushed over me after hearing the announcement that we're pulling out of Iraq were of deep relief. But then they turned to deep sadness over the terrible cost of a war that was always wrong: intellectually, politically, strategically and, above all, morally.
Every person and every sector has an obligation to help our fellow citizens and ensure America's prosperity. Hunger is an urgent issue in America, and we must do something about it now. Not tomorrow or next year, but now. People are suffering today.