“At this time of year we always get inundated with donation requests; the mailbox is flooded with generic envelopes full of address stickers, key-chains, Christmas cards, all with appeals from charitable organisations, fishing for a buck,” I complained to Campbell, at our usual Thursday get together at ‘Gramma’s Pub’ on the Gibsons Harbour. Camp, as we all call him, was already seated at our corner table on the glassed in veranda, ignored my tirade and said: “Did you see the festive lighting display in our lovely village this year, thanks to some very committed merchants?”
“Yes, I have and I hear they’ll leave it up all year round.”
“Why not, I think it’s a good idea, also saves on labour,” Camp pointed out.
Vicky, wearing a blue and white Santa hat today, dropped off a couple of frosty pints and I tried to get back on track to my peeve of the week. “You must get dozens of unsolicited begging letters around Christmas.”
“I do and for the most part I recycle them. They all try to guilt us into sending money because at this time of year we are supposed to help out our less fortunate fellow men and show compassion and charity,” Camp said.
“Except it seems to me that the rich seem even richer while the poor are even more marginalized at this time of year,” I said. “We hear about the soup kitchens, open houses and turkey dinners for the poor and homeless while on the next block the glitter and sparkle of the Christmas window displays lure the credit card holders with gifts and consumer goods nobody really needs.”
“You’re in a cheerful mood,” Camp said, where is all the jolly good humour this festive season is supposed to elicit?”
“I guess it’s just that I feel a kind of common guilt and helplessness towards the less fortunate and those who have no family or loved ones. It’s a miserable time of year for the lonely and sick.”
“As you know, Christmas is the one bonanza the book store cannot live without. People give gifts, even if they swear they will not succumb to the pressure but at the last minute they need a present for somebody that sent them a present even if they all agreed to abstain from gift giving. The 23rd and 24th of December are by far the best days at ‘Coast Books’. Books that haven’t sold all year fly off the shelves. Fact is nobody begrudges a book. In other words, I need giving time of year and am happy to participate.”
“It’s the family dynamics that always go sideways,” I said. “First nobody wants to do the Turkey dinner, then somebody volunteers but doesn’t want to invite the sister or brother in-laws parents, then the kids want to go to their partner’s family for the dinner and then accusations fly, promises are broken, feelings hurt. Gifts ? We abolished gift giving in our family decades ago, but still every year somebody breakes the agreement and gifts appear. ‘Just something small Dad’, ‘mom always wanted one of those’, or ‘I couldn’t resist it seemed so perfect’. Clare believes that Christmas it’s all about family and if you feel the need to give, donate to a charity.”
“I tend to agree with Clare in principle,” Camp said.. Although I don’t have a family and have spent many Christmas eve’s alone reading a book or wandering the empty streets, this year Muriel and Sophie invited me to dinner. I’m looking forward to it. As far as donating to a charity, ‘Chimp’ is the way to go. ‘Chimp’, which was founded by a friend of mine, is short for ‘charitable impulse’ meaning that if you feel in a charitable mood but don’t know who to give too, Chimp will hold your money for you, issue a tax receipt, and pass your donation on when you make up your mind who the beneficiary should be. It’s a great way to alleviate your guilt: park it for a while and make up your mind later. Check it out”
“I usually buy a couple of those pre-packaged bags at the grocery store and give some money to the local food bank. Drops of mercy into a sea of misery. I’m always glad when the holidays are over and the humdrum, mundane everyday takes over again,” I said.
“For millions this is the time of year for celebration. For rich or poor it’s about getting together and cherishing each other. You need to cheer up my friend.”
I had to admit Camp was right. I need to snap out of my humbug mood. There is lots to celebrate: Our exclusive way of live, our unprecedented comforts and technology, our advances in health and wealth, our children’s successes and last but not least: our loved ones and partners, our friends and neighbours and our communities. “You’re right of course Camp and I feel a charitable impulse right now and will buy the next round. Just because I can.”
“ho, ho, ho,” Camp cheered.