This morning, Christian families in our area will begin the day by giving Christmas presents. Just a couple of weeks ago, Jewish families marked Hanukkah with eight days of giving.

Among Buddhists and Muslims - in fact, in all faith traditions - much of the joy of major holidays comes from the happiness people experience when they give to charities and to each other.

It's no secret that it feels good to give.

Abraham Lincoln, somewhat of an expert on doing the right thing, maintained that all good deeds are prompted by selfishness. Charitable acts give us peace of mind and make us proud of ourselves. (And we don't mind a bit if other people see us as generous.)

As a whole, New Jersey residents are more used to giving than receiving. The Chronicle of Philanthropy says that with $4.5 billion in annual charitable contributions, the state ranks eighth in total giving.

But this year, many of our neighbors - people who have never accepted any type of handout before - are still in need, having lost homes and possessions due to Sandy.

It can be difficult for people who are used to helping others to accept help themselves. But one of the lessons taught by Sandy's indifferent brutality is that we never know when we may need help. And, as uncomfortable as it may be for some of us to accept the aid of others, there is a way to receive generously, just as there is a way to give generously.

For some of the people knocked down by Sandy, the journey back to normalcy will be a long one. They want nothing more than to be back in a position to give, rather than receive. When they are back on their feet, they will have a better appreciation of the work of groups such as the Red Cross and of the sense of helplessness that is a constant for the least fortunate among us.

If you are comfortable enough to be generous, and if you want to extend that "season of giving" feeling a bit longer, these folks still need your help.

You can find our Press It Forward list of groups that are accepting volunteers and donations at

Add your group to the list by sending an email to