I’m not a country music aficionado, but I like that old Merle Haggard Christmas song “If We Make It Through December.” It’s a nice metaphor for the season, with the desperate hope of someone just holding on for a better tomorrow. “If we make it through December, everything’s gonna be alright. I know it’s the coldest time of winter, and I shiver when I see the falling snow.” Lovely song. No matter that December is just the beginning of winter (and also not the coldest time of winter) and that the need will be just as great throughout the rest of the year.
Giving, Giving, Gone
We’re all encouraged to give during the Christmas season: gifts to family and friends, co-workers and clients, donations to toy drives, store “give a dollar” campaigns, charity concerts, Christmas baskets, food banks…you name it. It is the perfect time to ask those who have a little extra to give a little extra to others. And then the doldrums of January and February roll around and the food bank shelves run empty, and the folks hitting you up for cash on the street begin to sound anguished. That’s because the need hasn’t gone away. If only we could be fed once and be sated all day. If only one donation could house a family for a year. But, fighting poverty and homelessness is a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week battle. There is no utopian silver bullet that will end it all. But, that said, the hard-slog, long-term work is done every day by community organizations such as the YWCA, which advocate for political action (higher social assistance rates, guaranteed annual income, homeless and poverty action plans, etc.) and ALSO provide community-based services (emergency shelters, transitional housing, skills development programs, etc.)
Making Something Out of Next to Nothing
I’m continually amazed at how the YW manages to provide so much on so many fronts to so many. They’re like magicians pulling rabbits out of hats…except that they do it with borrowed hats and begged rabbits. I’m also blown away by the creativity the organization uses to help fill the pot—and the community networking that is done to make it happen. Buy a cinnamon sugar doughnut from Beechwood Doughnuts and $1 goes to the YWCA Niagara! Great, now I can treat myself, and feel good about it! Check out a local hockey game ($5, March 22, 11:30-2 p.m. Gale Centre, Niagara Falls) and see your money given directly back to the community! Chow down on vegan cuisine at Rise Above (on designated days a couple times a year) and 15 percent of your bill is donated to the YWCA. Fifteen percent is more than the HST! Giving during the bitter, dark, post-Christmas months of the year is just as important to charity coffers as Christmas donations. Not everyone can crack open their wallet or credit card and hand over $100, or a $1,000 in January or February. If you can, great! If not, then consider a few dollars here or there. Buy your office a box of cinnamon sugar doughnuts, put a team together for Coldest Night of the Year, or collect the money you are saving by not indulging in weekly (or daily) treats for a month or two, stuff it in an envelope and give it to the YWCA. It will help a lot of people make it through the winter.