Not everyone celebrates Christmas. But for those who do, but who simply can’t afford to fill up all that real estate under the Christmas tree, this time of year can really drag on the spirit.
Yet what a lift it can be if, on the other hand, others step in to help make Christmas a genuine season of joy. Programs like Adopt-a-Family and Share Christmas, often organized by neighbourhood centres and non-profit groups, work like this: A family in need is identified, maybe a single mom with her children, or a family coping with disabilities, or a low-income senior couple. A list is made up of specific items that they could not otherwise afford, like age-appropriate gifts and books for the kids, but also food, winter coats and even personal hygiene products.
Donors never meet or learn the names of the people they’ve helped. So they don’t get a hug, a smile of gratitude or even a mumbled thank you. Do they still get a buzz?
Ask people who’ve already decided to shell out for wool socks and canned stews and the Twilight Series. Every year my friend Anne’s book club adopts a family for the holidays through the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre in east-end Toronto. Book club queen Vicki, who organizes it, told me: “I believe it’s important to give back to the community, especially during Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we tend to eat and live to excess.” Good point. Vicki also thinks getting involved this way is a valuable reminder to appreciate what we have.
Another friend, Lisa, is joining forces with her own fellow book-club members to support an elderly woman who, she says, “lives in poverty with her little dog and very little else.” She adds: “We’re happy to do it… Book club girlz rule again!” They sure do.
Happily there’s no written rule that you must be girlz in a book club to participate in a Share Christmas program. So even if you happen to eschew books and cocktails and gossip (although I personally can’t imagine a world without any of those things), you can sign up to support a family or lonely neighbour for the holidays. Find a program in your community through the magic that is Google.
What’s my pick? In the past I’ve supported the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario’s Holiday Fund, which provides gifts, groceries, and supplies to a family affected by spinal cord injury. Those who know a bit about me know why this hits close to home. But the difference is that my family is already anticipating loot under the tree and turkey for dinner. Share Christmas programs give a whole lot of other people something to look forward to, too.