I’m feeling apologetic. I guess that makes me a stereotypical Canadian.
Our family was in full gift-giving mode yesterday. We have only one child, so there oughtn’t to be much under the tree on Christmas morning. And the truth is, nothing is exactly what you’d call over-the-top extravagant. But it’s been a challenging year, and we family members have really come through for each other, and I suppose exchanging thoughtful gifts is a way of expressing our gratitude for each other. We do also spend part of Christmas Day with extended family, but we’ve got strategies in place to keep the gift frenzy to a minimum: The adults buy a present for only one other adult. Still, with a group of 18 people (not to mention some awfully cute kids), there’s a fair bit of wrapping paper flying around.
And now it’s Boxing Day, and I’m on a holiday break. Apart from the family and household chores that I can’t get out of – the kitchen doesn’t clean itself – I have made up my mind to work as little as possible.
So I’m sipping a coffee and reading the paper and determined to relax. And now I read a story about the aftermath of the Haiti disaster, and about generous souls from around the world who are making significant sacrifices of their time and money to do what they can to help a few of the people there. And then I speak on the phone with my neighbour, whose family is headed to the local food bank to volunteer over the holidays.
And that’s when I feel small. Me, I have no grandiose plans for doing good today. Or even this week. I was just intending to take a time out for a day or two, leafing through a couple of my new books or cracking open my lime-mint hand lotion.
It’s almost worse when I check my e-mail and discover that some obviously big-hearted guy in south Asia has sent information about my writing to a bunch of his friends, presumably hoping I’ll inspire them. Me? How can I compete with folks who are literally transforming their lives to make a difference to total strangers?
But whenever I talk about good deeds, there are two things I always come back to. (Okay, there are usually more than two because I tend to gab. But I digress…) First, I’m no girl guide. I’m just a regular person with a mortgage and chores and a job and occasionally extranormal family responsibilities. I know I am not ever going to singlehandedly save the world. Second – and this is an important piece – even the tiniest things that we do for another person have the potential to make a large difference. Often they set off a chain of kindnesses that we couldn’t possibly have predicted. So these acts are important, even if we don’t know it.
And so maybe I’ve got my feet up for most of the day. But perhaps the word of encouragement I give to someone today, or the cup of sugar I lend to a neighbour, or the mail I send to our foster child in Africa, may have an impact. And if it doesn’t? At least the positive vibes will be humming.
So for now I think I’ll let myself off the hook, and pour more coffee.
No, I’m not saving Haiti today. But I did find a chuckle or two in the funny pages.