In January, our theme for the blog is:
Reflection & Anticipation
We all know that Christmas can be both joyous and difficult, sometimes at the same time. This month, we’re sharing writing from our bloggers that touch on both the joyousness and the difficulty. Bloggers Laura and Franziska start us off by answering the Question of the Month:
How do you continue to give back throughout the year?
My parents have always been very conscious of money, especially my mother. No matter how old I get, whenever my mother asks me what I bought the first question is always how much it cost. I always got infuriated with her. To me the cost of something doesn’t matter. It is the value an individual puts on the object that gives it money. Especially, in today’s society, where the economy and our consumer capitalism is in high gear is due to the value society has put on money. Before money, people traded goods but now that’s not the case. Even for my education the first concern for my mom was, we don’t have enough money to pay for it. My dad didn’t think like that, he was more, I will give you money so you don’t have to work and just concentrate on school. I am an only child and my dad says he works for me. To supply me with a better future. I decided to compromise in this situation revolving money with OSAP and my dad paying for my living expenses. Thus, the responsibility to pay my debt would be on me.
The reason I start it off with my experience with money is I don’t care about. I understand that people need money to survive but I never felt like I was a poor individual. For example, right now I am writing this blog entry on my laptop. I think to myself, there are people in this world who are in worse shape than I am. People who have no laptops. Plus, I value the item that I buy with the money rather than the money itself. As, I am a big collector of movies and books my parents think that it’s a waste of money and I should just rent it. My logic is this, if I love something so much no matter how many times I read and watch it, isn’t it more beneficial for me if I possess this item myself rather than having to borrow it from the library?
Every time I go to downtown St. Catherine’s and am waiting in the terminal, I have had multiple people come up to me asking me for money, for the bus and there have been a few times when people have asked me when I was with friends and I ended up turning them down, usually because someone felt suspicious or made the group feel uncomfortable and I always felt bad about that. It’s not like they asked for a $100, it was usually just a few cents but it still made me upset. My parents are the weary type and tell me not to tell people I have money, but again, I find no intrinsic value in money, what I value is how I made that other person feel through giving them the money. For example, one time when I was with a friend at Pen Centre, we were at Winners and as she had an allowance for the week but really wanted to buy this sweater she had found which cost more than her allowance could afford, I had offered to pay for her. She was grateful and happy about and it made me feel good to have made her happy. I also don’t care if people pay me back or not, again, I don’t care about the money, they could simply pay me back by hanging out with me and I would be perfectly happy.
Then there is what I am doing right now at the YWCA volunteering to do this blog. I don’t have to do it but I want to. I also learned I need volunteering for my program as I plan on being a Social Worker, again something involved in interacting and helping people. However, before I learned that, I knew I wanted to volunteer, as not only is it good for job experience but what better way to give back to the community then helping other people. I plan on doing more at the YWCA in the future and am looking forward to the experience.
Lastly, I sign online petitions. The internet is a great source in communicating with people and reach others from all around the world. I am subscribed to a website called Change.org that sends me petitions that they think I will find interesting. Usually I end up signing them. I was cleaning out my e-mail and noticed that many petitions that I got involved animal treatment in Canada and as someone who is part of the Brock Animal Student Liberation Club, it is something that I believe in helping the lives of animals in any small ways I can.
I try to educate people in any way I can about these issues. To inform people about what is going on in the world. I am really passionate about Lions and as there are less than 20,000 lions in the wild, I want to remind people that beyond the little bubble in North America, the beautiful creatures in the wild that we have caged in our Zoos are in trouble and we need to find a way to help them. I am a big fan of a man called Kevin Richardson who is a Lion Behaviourist in South Africa who taught me a lot about the animals that I love so much. Including, the industry called Canned Hunting. The canned hunting industry is legal and it raises lions in captivity and then when their old enough, they are usually bought by some rich fellow who wants to shoot the lion as a trophy. The animals are caged in and are lured usually by meat and then killed. It’s isn’t a fare fight especially because the lions have no chance of escape. I never knew that before until someone educated me on the reality these animals are facing and now I try to inform as many people as I can. It’s no surprise that most people that I talk too have no idea about the Canned Hunting Industry, not even people from my club knew about it until I talked about it.
This has been the best Christmas of my life. For the first time ever, I truly enjoyed Christmas and I think it’s because I’ve come to realize just how lucky I am now to be surrounded by people who love and respect me. I’ve worked very hard to make a better life for myself and for my family. But when Christmas rolls around, I am usually cloaked in darkness because of haunted memories of my childhood. I used to go through the motions but I always felt an overwhelming emptiness inside of me. I always put on a facade for my children and bumbled through Christmas, going overboard, never knowing if I was doing it right.
I didn’t realize until this year that my desperate attempts at a normal, meaningful Christmas had actually been successfully accomplished. My lame attempts at giving my children happy memories of exciting Christmases were more appreciated than I had realized.
My grown children reminded me of the traditions I had started with them during their childhood, and how much they looked forward to those things we used to do together. Like being able to open their new Christmas pyjamas and one gift on Christmas Eve. Or getting a special new ornament for the tree every year! Now that they live on their own they still carry on those traditions.
I made a promise to myself when I was 16, living in a shelter in Toronto that I would someday repay the kindness of the strangers that were taking care of and protecting me. Since then, I look for opportunities to give back to others throughout the year. I have a wonderful uncle named Bob that came back into my life when I needed him the most. He had lived with us when I was a young child and he had just moved back from Quebec when my father died tragically, alone in a rented room. Uncle Bob was hit by a Mack truck in 1977 and lived to talk about it, but he has a lot of health problems because of the damage a Mack truck can do to a human body. I check in with him almost everyday and I bring him home-cooked meals every week. I spend time with him and we reminisce about my father and Aunt Nancy. I make sure he has new slippers every year and I bring him Christmas dinner over the holidays.
I have donated money to Covenant House for years because it breaks my heart to think of any child being hungry or homeless. I’m working on getting my bank to sign up for the program that allows you to donate a few cents every time you use your debit card. I’ve often donated money or food to homeless people I see in our community. We even donated food to a homeless person every night that we were in California. I donate used clothing to the Diabetes Association at least twice a year when they call me. I collect used clothing from everyone I know by offering to pick it up and deliver it myself to different organizations that put it directly into the hands of those truly in need. Whenever any store asks for a donation of any kind that has to do with kids, I always donate and put my grandbabies names on the paper that they display.
But for me, the most important thing I am proud to be involved with is the efforts of the YWCA shelter on King Street in St. Catharines. In addition to occasionally bringing in food donations, I am thrilled to write for the blog and help with different fundraisers.
Volunteering with the YWCA has given me the confidence I need to try new things and be a part of something so much bigger than myself. Working alongside the amazing staff and volunteers has given me the opportunity to help others while improving my feelings of self-worth. Knowing that every little thing that we do at the shelter helps those going through a rough patch gives my life meaning, because I know what it means to have nothing and to be scared of an uncertain future. I believe that we need to work together as a community to prevent someone from falling through the cracks. So, while it’s important to give at Christmas, we must remember that poverty and homelessness is not just a seasonal disorder. Look around you…there are ample opportunities to continue giving through the year.
Lastly, if every person did just one thing every day to brighten someone else’s day, imagine what a beautiful world we would live in!