Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 3, 2004
How Much Is Enough?
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 3, 2004 – We live in a world of staggering and often brutal contrasts. It has been this way for millennia and the prospect of a change in the status quo seems incredibly remote.
There have always been, and will likely always be, wealthy and poverty stricken countries, rich and poor people, extremely kind and barbarically cruel people, happy and sad stories, love and hatred, just and unjust situations, funny and serious people, fair and unfair events, generous souls and niggardly misers and as Clint Eastwood can attest to – “The good, the bad and the ugly”.
I drove home today from an appointment through the Beaches and stopped in to visit some of my favourite stores. I picked up a few, inexpensive last minute hostess gifts to take along to the various dinners I’ll be attending over the upcoming Christmas season. The stores are decked out in their holiday finery and tables and shelves are stacked with gift ware and every imaginable present that anyone could want. Santa is going to be busy this year. Surprisingly, there were a lot of shoppers out for a mid-day Friday. People on their own, moms with kiddies in strollers (I didn’t envy them) and well dressed couples hand in hand looking for gift ideas.
I don’t have to go to a poverty stricken country to find a stark contrast to this picture of plenty. A night time visit to our City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square provides us with all the evidence we need to realize that people are homeless right here in Toronto the Good. Did they just wake up one morning and announce, “I think I’ll go out today and become a homeless person?” I think not. What are we doing for them? What am I offering to them? The answer is nothing. So as I shop for gifts to take to tables of plenty – less than twenty minutes away – people much less fortunate are sleeping outside on cold concrete steps and city sidewalks.
When I got home, I finished wrapping and labelling the last of my Christmas gifts. The brightly coloured packages are now lined up against the wall in my third floor. I’m glad that I can give gifts to family and friends that I love, to acknowledge their place in my life, and I know I’ll receive some beautiful things in return. I will bring these treasures home and they will sit on tables or shelves, hang in my closet or be worn around my neck or wrist. More things (albeit it beautiful ones) to add to the mountain of stuff I already possess. This led to the question I posed at the start of this little story – how much is enough?
I hope that one year (soon), I will say to everyone to whom I usually give a gift, “This year I’m donating money to a charity in your name” or “I’ve decided to take five hundred dollars and walk around down town in mid December and give it all away to homeless, street people. In lieu of that I could send it to far off countries where children are starving to death everyday. Dozens of worthwhile organizations are always in need of funding. I wish I was there in my thinking this year, but I’m not.
I like the holidays, the dinners and parties, the Christmas carols, the camaraderie and the exchange of beautiful gifts. However I know that I, and most of my friends, have more possessions than ninety percent of the people in the world. How many candles can I light at one time? How many dishes, glasses and mugs do I need in my cupboard? How many CD’s are stacked and not played in my living room? How many sweaters, scarves, bracelets, necklaces, shoes, purses and coats can I wear at one time?
The real message of Christmas is family, friends, kindness, love, joy, generosity, sharing, being together and truly appreciating the many things we have to be thankful for in this wonderful country. Blessings like our homes, our jobs and careers, hospitals, schools and churches. We also have the freedoms to write, speak, congregate, protest and be part of society.
There are no greater gifts than these. We certainly don’t need to change our Christmas traditions and I’m not suggesting that we do – but if we really want to get the most from the true message of the holidays – we just need to be aware and to be thankful.