Warming the cockles

At this time of year, my heart always grows three sizes larger at the generosity of Victorians

At this time of year, my heart always grows three sizes larger at the generosity of Victorians, but I also understand how the seemingly unending amount of need can lead to a near-paralyzing stress.

When charity becomes a competitive sport vying for a limited amount of funds, it can be natural to feel overwhelmed. The key is balance. I’ve always believed the act of giving should be something that feels good, rather than an easing of middle-class guilt. If you’ve been fortunate in life to have met your needs, paid the bills, and still have some extra left over, then I want you to donate to the charity that speaks loudest to you. Forget the peer pressure and the corporate challenges. Instead, dig deep and find the cause that best warms the cockles of your heart.

In the small town where my wife and I lived for many years, we chose to be Secret Santas for families that we heard about through the grapevine of church, hospital and social events. In that town, the needy weren’t always as easy to recognize as they are here. Winters were too rough for anyone to be homeless, but the town certainly had its share of people who were barely scraping by. One year we heard about a single mother who lived in the trailer park with her two young daughters. The woman didn’t want to be thought of as needing charity, but her Christmas wish was that her two daughters could take dance lessons — something she couldn’t afford.

Not your usual type of request, but as parents ourselves, it was one that spoke to us. With the assistance of a social worker and the added support of a local dance studio, we were able to make the woman’s Christmas wish come true. It wasn’t a large gift, for we’ve never been wealthy, but having faced our own share of difficulties (financial and otherwise) over the years, it was a wonderful feeling to put smiles on the faces of three strangers who deserved and appreciated the gesture.

Now, the reason I bring this up is to show that charity doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. The smallest gift can be the largest blessing. For example, last year a charitable program called Coats for Kids collected and distributed 3,500 coats to children and families in our community. This year, due to unforeseen circumstances, this program is unable to do so. However, a group of concerned community members, unaffiliated with any charity or non-profit organization, is taking it upon itself to fill this gap. All it needs from you is a donation of coats, gloves, hats, shoes, socks, blankets or any winter or waterproof gear.

So if you or your kids have outgrown last year’s coats or your closet is stuffed with too many toques, you can help those less fortunate and feel good about it without straining your bank account. You can drop off items to either: Hip Baby Clothing in Market Square, Blanshard Community Centre, Anti-Violence office at UVic’s Student Union Building, or 222 Langford St. in Vic West. M

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