It's easy to forget how good we have it, here in Canada in the twenty-first century. We complain about how slow our health care system is, but at least it exists. The prices at the grocery store and gas pump can be frighteningly high, but at least there are no shortages. We've got electricity and water, and very few of us actually know someone who goes hungry on a regular basis.
I've had my share of hard knocks in my life, but I consider myself to be a lucky person. I don't have a huge income, but I have more than a lot of people have, and so I found myself wondering if I would make some kind of Christmas contribution to a charitable cause this year. Because I am very aware of how close I have lived at one time or another to actual poverty, and how easy it is to fall over that surprisingly thin edge.
In the past I've made some questionable decisions as to my giving. I was raised in a tithing family, taught from a young age to be generous to those less fortunate, and in my young adulthood I gave plenty of money to charities and to individuals in need. Unfortunately, I did so when I actually could not afford to, and was at the same time receiving handouts from my grandparents to help me make ends meet. I had not mastered being financially responsible for myself, and I really had no business giving away so much.
So I'm a lot more cautious now when I'm asked to give. I'm aware that even perfectly good and straightforward causes may not be making the best use of the dollars that come their way. And there are certain needs that tug at my heart more than others - everybody has their favourite charities.
Out of the blue this year a request appeared on my Facebook page to contribute to a diaper drive for Elizabeth House - a place for "unwed mothers" in old-fashioned speech, single moms if you're more up-to-date. It's not something I would normally have considered contributing to, but it stuck in my head, mostly because of its simplicity. You buy diapers, and you give them. Not cash, which can be misappropriated or misspent. Just diapers, for the most helpless humans, fulfilling a very basic need. And the friend who ran this diaper drive just did it on her own, posting the invitation on Facebook and just collecting what she could. No grand scheme here, no posing for photos, no full-page write-up in the Gazette. One kind person doing what she could to help people who in all likelihood will never know what she did or who she is.
And I liked that. I get tired of what my Grandpa used to call "ballyhoo." Fanfare and celebrities and the glare of spotlights, with a side of sound track thrown in for good measure. So much noise.
Instead, this gesture was a quiet one. It required me to do some legwork - it's been a number of years since I had to go looking for cloth diapers! I had to physically find and get to a specialty store. I had to physically truck the items over to my friend's house. I think that's what appealed to me the most - it involved a small amount of work on my part. I had to make an effort. Lift the proverbial finger ever so slightly. More complicated than writing a cheque.
I thanked my friend for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the cause of her choice. It did me good, having to trudge through the snow, having to get off my duff to do this little thing. I wish more people did things like this - quiet requests, simple small acts of kindness. That's the sort of thing that needs to be spread around, at Christmas and every day.