There are a lot of folks who are attaching their hopes to you this year.

For instance, Aunt Sue, whom no one else will invite to holiday dinner, is hoping you’ll invite her.

Your children or grandchildren are eager for you to bring home the latest gaming console.

And your spouse is hopeful you’ll consider the diamond she’s never received or the vacation he’s always wanted.

Even my own church, with mortgage rates interest increasing, is asking me to dig a bit deeper this year.

But during these times of economic downturn, no one has put on you with quite the same amount of desperate hope as have the charities.

So the question is, why are we unable to give more? I think it’s because with each passing year, we find we are more owned by things we think we own.

At least three major world religions teach the futility of appending our hopes on our possessions, yet each year our stuff multiplies, seemingly exponentially. In ecological terms, our stuff has become a “footprint” that is trampling our Garden of Eden.

For the futility of stuff, you needn’t look any further than the latest natural disaster. Earthquakes in Haiti, floods in China or fires in California show how all of our stuff can become rubble in an instant when it encounters the force of nature.

The disasters put me in mind of the homeless man in whose name this season celebrates — Christ Mass. You remember him, right? He’s the one who pointed out that while “foxes have holes,” he had “no place to lay his head.”

He challenged us with the teaching not to “store up for yourself treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So, every year since being deployed for the Katrina cleanup, I have tried to put these teachings to practice by declaring in this column: “Norris Burkes has enough stuff. I don’t need any more stuff. Stuff has no value.”

In years past, I’ve asked family and friends to make donations to the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, AidChild or the Heifer Project. I encouraged them to buy blankets for the homeless or send a donation overseas to the latest earthquake, flood or fire victim.

Those donations are especially important now, because according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, 400 national charities are operating with an average of 11 percent less donations. That’s the biggest drop in two decades.

Still, none of them are depending on you quite so much as the local charities.

So this year, I’m changing my emphasis a bit. I’m asking friends and family to look toward local donations such as Thanksgiving Day runs for the homeless or Coats for Kids.

I hope this is the year you declare your independence from the possessions own you. My prayer for you is that you discover that real treasure isn’t what you buy; it’s what you give.