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Not everyone having a Merry Christmas

By: Garry Melnyk

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 06:00 am

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Every Christmas season retailers bombard the public with advertising reminding us to go out and buy material things to make our friends happy. But for some families there are more important priorities come December. How will they pay the rent? How much will be left to buy groceries and warm clothing for the children?

Whatever the circumstances it’s not for us to judge but to reach out and help whether it’s a family member, friend or stranger.

I recently had a story related by a supervisor at work whose niece is a Grade 3 teacher at an Edmonton school. The school is no stranger to many underprivileged children. In early November she told her uncle that one of her students arrived at school in an exceptionally good mood. She asked the boy what was making him so happy. He replied, “We are moving into our own home tonight – we are going to have a real home.” This young teacher learned the family had been living in a very run down motel and the new home was going to be a basement rental suite. The teacher asked if the family had someone to help with moving their furniture. The response was “we don’t have any beds, but that’s alright … ‘cause my mom says that she will put some clothes on the floor for us to sleep on.”

The young woman told her uncle about the family’s plight and together they picked up a queen size bed, pillows, sheets and comforter. He and his niece then delivered all the goods to the single mother and two young boys.

My supervisor told the story to his employer and her assistant and decided instead of an office gift exchange, donations would be taken. The money raised will purchase a gift certificate for this family and any other that can be found in need of help. He also vowed to purchase a turkey to go along with every certificate.

He later said that the school where the two young boys attend supplies lunches, which are a necessity for many inner city children. As a former police officer and firefighter he’s seen similar situations and reminded his fellow employees the family that received the beds is not alone.

Teachers also see the children who are “falling through the cracks” in our prosperous province. Not all parents work the system for handouts, likely because of their sense of pride. Do we know of someone who needs food, clothing, or even furniture to make their Christmas brighter? Perhaps it’s not the material things they need, but more important necessities; our time in the form of a visit, a ride to go shopping, and a sidewalk that needs shovelling. Will they be spending the holidays alone or with family?

Can we help by asking if everything in their home is working? If they are retired and living on a small pension, it’s possible maintenance of the home may be lacking or a vehicle sits idle because there is no money for repairs. The real meaning of Christmas is not in gifts or a turkey dinner. The real meaning behind Christmas is love, charity and doing good acts of service for those around you. In our prosperous province with low unemployment, shiny cars and new houses, it’s easy to forget those whose Christmas will not be merry and bright.

Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident.


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