Last Thursday, people from The Express-Star office got to ring the bell for Salvation Army's Red Kettle holiday fundraiser.
I was fortunate enough to participate, and I'm very pleased to say that the majority of people who passed me going in and out of the local Walmart where we were stationed dropped something in the bucket.
After all, that's what the Salvation Army is asking for; anything you can spare, whether that is the change in your pocket, a few bucks, or maybe more. No one is counting the individual giving when it comes to the Red Kettle.
That's because they understand the power of a lot of people giving just a little bit. Churches also understand, as do food banks. The math is simple.
In 2013, Black Friday spending -- that's one day of shopping -- was recorded at $57.4 billion nationwide. That's billion, with a "B."
This year, the amount of people shopping on Black Friday dropped by about seven percent, according to the initial figures. That still means about 72 million across the country shopped, or about 20 percent of the entire U.S. population.
So a fifth of the U.S. population spent enough money in one day last year to provide about $164 in a one-time payment to everyone in the country. Just think about that.
Now, I'm sure that while some people out on Black Friday used those deals to treat themselves, the majority of that money was used buying gifts for friends and loved ones. Even if it may have been spent on something someone doesn't really need or used to delve into the realms of "excess," it's a blessing to give gifts. The heart is in a good place, and there's nothing wrong with that.
So I don't want to spend the rest of this column telling you how that same $57.4 billion is enough to buy 117 meals worth $10 or less for each of the estimated 49.1 million people that live in food insecure households in the U.S.
But, I do want to use that figure, that math, just to illustrate how much can be done by people when they concentrate effort, time and money toward one goal. We have the ability in this day and age to do wonderful, amazing things. The amount of money we spend at Christmas is a brilliant illustration of that.
Heck, if we stopped buying at Christmas it might bring the U.S. economy to its knees. That's another way of looking at some serious power.
And this is all in national terms. So just imagine what can be done on a smaller scale, right in your own neighborhood. These are some staggering problems and figures we're talking about, but it doesn't mean there is no solution.