Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another Ghost of Christmas Past

When my father left, it was just before Christmas and just after the birth of my baby sister (she was the 6th child for my parents).  My granny got on the phone and contacted every social agency and organization and church in an effort to ensure we would not be stranded without a Christmas. The spirit of the season and a lack of cross-referencing databases, made that year truly abundant. My young brother is a lifelong Maple Leafs fan because of a Leafs jersey which he received in that year when he was only 7. In those days fathers were seldom more than bread winners so Al’s absence from the kitchen table was barely noticed. A loss which was  more than made up for by 3 turkeys, 6 boxes of groceries and more gifts then any of us kids had ever seen. I’m sharing this story of my little brother, (now a middle-aged man; spending Saturday nights in a neighbourhood sports bar in Vancouver, cheering on the Leafs) to say we never know the level of impact an act of generousity will have. I imagine the people who donated that jersey have long forgotten... but my brother never will, and neither will I. 
Generousity abounds at Christmas and I love this season… my church announced a few weeks ago that we have “adopted a family” … the gifts have poured in for the family of 5 (we are a very small group never more than 40 at a service). This adopt a family idea has been done by private groups for more then half a century, that I know of. It has become very popular through community care agencies over the past few decades. Yehhhh…. Christmas!  What has always troubled me is that a family in need does not cease to be poor on January 5th; so after Christmas then what?
When I was a child an organization called “the Travelers” had an adopt a family program, each member-family would adopt a needy- (insert whatever politically correct crap you prefer for that word) family. That family insured that every holiday their adoptees had a hamper of food and every child had a gift on their birthday … there would be chocolate bunnies at Easter and sometimes even tickets to a hockey game (local minor league) or a circus. We were adopted by the Muncasters of Thunder Bay… So thank you Mr. & Mrs. Muncaster , Diane and your brother Whatz-z-name. You set a good example and possibly had some small part in making me into the person I am today.
Over the years I have frequently expressed dismay that this ongoing adoption model is not practiced today. It was explained to me Betty-Lou Souter (of Community Cares Niagara) that privacy issues would make the concept impossible.  I am happy to say my church is trying to disprove that theory. The care agency worker will act as a liaison between us and our family, so we can provide the niceties of life for this family years round. I would like to see us go past simple birthdays and special events to providing funds for school events, clubs, sports and summer camps. These are experiences every child should have at least once. Our family will call their worker with a request, eg: “Mikey’s class is going to the ROM and the trip cost $40”. The worker takes 2 minutes to email us with the info ( our contact info is in the families file) Then we take two minutes to email $40 to the worker and Mikey can go on his class trip. No privacy violations here just 10 minutes (collectively) out of lives of one case worker and a church secretary.
Anyway I hope everyone has a joyous holiday… keep this spirit of generousity and good will alive as you travel through 2011. The world is a better place with you in it, MERRY CHRISTMAS (insert your holiday of choice here ;-).