Is Christmas about happiness…or joy?

By Lennox Farrell Wednesday December 18 2013 in Opinion
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Is the season of Christmas one about happiness, or joy? To be more precise, is happiness knowing you’re getting gifts; and joy knowing the meaning of Christmas? For sure, joy is knowing you’re making the lives of others easier and better; especially of those unable to return the favour.


So, in addition to the food, the family, the fun, are there attainable options for blossoming joy? For sharing gifts which will not only be useful, but will themselves also be gifts that keep on giving?


For example, decades ago, I had the blessing to teach alongside a colleague who introduced me to sharing goodness for goodness’ sake. For years after, I also shared this with some of my students. I still remain in the hope that, even today, decades on, some of them, now adults with families, might continue to share what had previously been shared with me.


Participating in, and sharing with others this gift of giving was, and is, quite inexpensive. On every level, not only is it very doable, but its impact is considerably beyond what are minimal expenses.


This gift given me was an opportunity to adopt a child overseas. I’d known about it, but hadn’t the urgency to follow through on it. In addition, this wasn’t some experiment in charity being used as a substitute for justice. However, in addition to assisting a child who I’d never meet, one of my objectives had been to assist my students in learning why ‘the world is bigger than McDonalds’.


Thereafter, every month, students participating donated equally. A doubled pledge was lifted in the month of June to cover responsibilities during the summer months. There were challenges, primarily those of transferring between classes from one year to the other. However, my teaching for more than a decade in one area assisted greatly. This undertaking works even better in family, where there is more predictability maintaining commitments. This is a long-term opportunity in which to see your adopted child grow through infancy to teenage years, etc.


Such adoptions, costing pennies a day, can be done through many credible agencies. Among these are some which are religious and others that are non-religious in outlook. One characteristic they all have in common is being non-sectarian in services provided. Also, the monies gifted here can earn one something not available with mutually sharing gifts between mutually beholden recipients: tax benefits! That should mean something, eh?


One of these non-religious or secular charitable organizations is the ‘Save the Children Fund’. An internationally active non-governmental organization, ‘Save the Children’ promotes children’s rights, provides relief, and helps support children in developing countries. Established in 1919 in the United Kingdom, it seeks to improve the lives of children through better education, health care and economic opportunities. It also provides emergency aid in natural disasters, war and other conflicts. Admin costs are estimated at 3.8 per cent of budget.


Religious charitable agencies include some with Catholic roots. One, for example, is the St. Vincent De Paul Society. Named after the 17th century’s ‘Great Apostle of Charity’, its Mission is: To live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy. Among its many activities dedicated to meeting these objectives, it operates a number of stores where one can donate and/or purchase serviceable items and clothing.


Another religious, non-sectarian charity is the Islamic Circle in North America (ICNA). Its logo: No Borders No Boundaries. A registered Canadian grassroots charity, it works for the welfare of the community. Providing relief to those caught in disaster situations, ICNA ‘was established (1970) to fulfil (our) responsibility to humanity regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, class, location, religion …, with special focus in countries where the majority of the population lives below the poverty line.’


The Children’s Christian Fund of Canada (CCFC) is another Canadian charitable institution. Also non-sectarian, it provides services nationally and internationally. The CCFC ‘facilitates a child sponsorship program where any person can donate a sum of $38 a month to sponsor a particular child. This is used to help provide education, food, clean water, medical care and training. Currently, there are 53,000 children enrolled in the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada sponsorship program’.


The Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) – with which I have an affiliation – has admin costs estimated at 7.8 per cent of budget. It addresses wide-ranging issues of health, agriculture, community development etc. The organization’s other commitments include staging ‘World Water Day’ annually. Commemorated March 22, its motto is: ‘water justice for all’. Another ADRA commitment is undertaken on behalf of ‘at risk girls’. ADRA specifically targets the sexual exploitation of women and children. Operating since 1956, it now operates in more than 125 countries.


These institutions mentioned are a few of the scores of available organizations, selflessly doing remarkable work in defense of the exploited, the under-nourished, and the un-represented in and out of Canada. In too many instances these ‘castaways’ of our humanity are women, children and young people.


Locally, there are also many opportunities for valiant service. These include Food Banks, Women’s Shelters, and organizations like the John Howard Society which rehabilitates people involved with the criminal justice system. In this vein, within our community there is the Black Inmates and Friends Association, and also Redemption Reintegration Services. Currently in urgent need for funding, RRS has one of the best rates of success redeeming our youth. Support success! Donate! Call (416) 613 2920.


Host a New Year’s party with new purpose! Donate … repeatedly!


Some of us, desirous of doing some good, but considering how vast and complex the challenge, might surrender to spasms of helplessness. How could one person make a real difference? Or one could find excuses, which repetition morphs into mantras: that these people have leaders who are corrupt; that poor people need not a hand-out but a hand-up etc. It is difficult to muster sage answers to individuals who might feel powerless; cynical, too, when facing opportunities to confront hopelessness.


However, what could one gain by choosing this Christmas to make this difference, this way? How might our children and family members respond? Would such actions affect for the better, the sense of cynical entitlement desensitizing so many of today’s youth? And if they are blessed with already being generous, wouldn’t they welcome this opportunity giving the more?


I still recall the sheer sense of pure joy we shared as teacher and students when photographs, letters and other details of the child we adopted finally arrived. You will more than likely also feel this way, too, if with friends and others you set out to get, not only more gifts that are mutually predictable, but to share even more, gifts which build lives and bloom hope. Gifts of goodness; given for goodness’ sake!

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