2008 has been the worst year on record for me for a number of reasons; what with my mom sick in the hospital nearly a month, saying goodbye to my family home of nearly 30 years, and of course my father’s passing in February.
Everyone experiences life’s tragedies—there’s no avoiding it. They are what humbles us and what makes life’s most precious moments so much more, well, precious.
I heard once that a person’s character is defined by how he or she faces adversity and the make up of a person can be summed by the merit or value of their efforts when life throws them a curve ball. People are extremely diverse and how they handle adversity is equally so. For me, it became clear that I needed to step up and help those in need. This included my mom and brother when my dad died and again when she was laid up in the hospital during their sale, purchase and transition from our family home to a new house.
While stepping up for family would seem automatic for most, lately I’ve been feeling the urge welling up inside me to do something more. Something unselfish for once and for those less fortunate than I. After all, I’m not the only one that had a bad year.
This year has brought about some self realizations, of which include how lucky I am for what I have; a loving wife, my mom and brother (although I don’t see them enough), a good group of friends (nor do I see them enough either—I see a trend forming!), a comfortable roof over my head, stable employment that I love, and most importantly, life! Less fortunate people don’t have many of these things and are just barely clinging to life itself. Granted, some people make bad choices that lead to impoverish living, but for others it can be unavoidable, bad luck or through a misfortune of circumstances.
I have every toy under the sun; boat, motorbike, Wii, Blackberry, multiple iPods, multiple laptops, panel TV’s, DSLR & video cameras, a warm king-sized bed and $25,000 in DVD’s to name a few. To be honest, its an embarrassment of riches. During my process of self awareness (sounds so spiritual doesn’t it), comparing my possessions to those less fortunate literally embarrassed me. My philosophy of “work hard, play hard” brought me to this point. I’m guilty of over indulgence. There’s no getting around it. Its my fault and rightly so, I SHOULD be embarrassed.
So, needless to say this holiday season I haven’t been seeking gifts from anyone. The mere moment someone’s asked what I might need or like, I’ve assertively interrupted, explained my feelings and suggested something less selfish and more in dire need: charitable donations.
It doesn’t matter what charity or cause, or for what denomination—every bit helps. Even the $3 to buy and mail a holiday greeting card, the $20 secret-Santa office party gift or one less $7 drink at the restaurant would all go a long way to feeding someone on the streets, or better yet, providing shelter or a gift to an innocent child in need. Today I donated my entire work Christmas bonus to the United Gospel Mission. I didn’t need it nearly as much as a family needed a Christmas dinner and 10 people needed a week’s worth of hot meals. It just felt like the right thing to do for me.
Union Gospel Mission recently unveiled its second annual Christmas Catalogue. Through it, Canadians have the opportunity to give gifts of hope on behalf of a loved one, instead of buying a present. Some of the 18 items include a cozy pack (sleeping bag, socks, and toque) for $47, warm shelter for a week for $84, or employment counselling and work wardrobe for $75.
Even if you don’t get that fancy new phone, hand bag or sports car for Christmas, take a moment to think about how rich you truly are. It won’t be easy to do when you’re upset you didn’t get what you wanted. I can certainly appreciate that… we’re only human. BUT, chances are you’re much wealthier than most.
I love you dad, and I miss you.