AT RANDOM: The spirit of giving

They crept across my lawn, like Christmas elves in the night.

They crept across my lawn, like Christmas elves in the night.

In reality, there wasn’t a pointed ear in sight, just big-hearted local realtors collecting bags of food for the food banks of the North Okanagan in their annual Realtors Food Drive.

It’s just one of the ways all of us in the North Okanagan are encouraged to give back to those in need and it’s a way of stepping back from the excess and greed that threatens to overwhelm the more spiritual aspects of this holiday season.

And it’s a lovely way of giving back without breaking the bank: grab a few cans of soup, some boxes of pasta and anything else that is non-perishable and that might make a nice meal for someone who is down on their luck.

As the spending season heats up, it’s wonderful to remember those less fortunate. We all treat each other with a little more love, a little more tolerance, a little more patience and kindness.

How wonderful it would be to keep that holiday spirit going all year. But if we could find a way to keep that feeling going all year, this would be a kinder, gentler world.

I had a friend who, years ago, decided to serve at a soup kitchen. This was a woman who did not work, and who did virtually nothing to give back, yet had both the time and the resources. So while I admired that she wished to help out at a soup kitchen on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, I wondered why she didn’t feel compelled to help out at any other time of the year.

But I suppose it’s a start. And I often think Christmas is a great time to teach our children about giving back. As they get caught up in the frenzy of asking Santa for the moon, sometimes literally, if not figuratively, it can be a great lesson to teach them that others don’t have enough to eat, let alone a brand new Barbie, Spider Man action figure or Lego set.

We can’t pass a Salvation Army Christmas kettle without my daughter wanting to put some money in, without expectation of anything in return, which always makes me feel very proud. Of course, five minutes later she is begging for something she “really, really wants.”

One of the best events in town is the annual shoe box packing party held every year at Coldstream Christian Church. There, for a donation, you are given a box that is marked for either a boy or a girl. Upstairs in the church hall, there are tables filled with gifts for children of all ages, from toys to games; there are toiletries from tooth brushes to soap; there are school supplies such as pencils, markers and notebooks.

Once you’ve decided on the age of the child, you start grabbing stuff and filling the box. You’re encouraged to add a letter, and a photo is taken to include in the box.

The first time I took my daughter she was six years old and I wasn’t sure how she’d react to seeing a room filled with toys that were not for her. My fears were unfounded as she quickly got into the spirit of giving and we ended up doing several boxes.

We returned this year with her friend and the two girls were shoe box-packing machines, filled with enthusiasm, never once asking what they were getting. It was lovely to see, made more special to imagine a young child on the other side of the world opening the box and seeing the delights it contained.

I hope to carry the lessons of that evening throughout the year, not just for my daughter, but for myself as well. That Christmas doesn’t have to be some mad frenzy of gift-buying, baking, decorating, visiting and endless activities. In the words of the Grinch, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Katherine Mortimer is the lifestyles editor for The Morning Star…