As we move into the Christmas season, I am struck by the dichotomy that is going on in the world we live in. Things can be so calm, abundant and delightful for some, while other people can be living in extremely inhumane conditions and circumstances. Thinking about it can make us absolutely crumble with emotion. Either that or we simply harden our hearts, or stop thinking about it altogether, because we feel so lost and overwhelmed about what to do.
In the weeks since the terrorist attacks in Paris, we have all become more aware of the suffering people are enduring in other parts of the world. According to Wikipedia, in November alone there were 30 terrorist attacks around the world. Not to mention the severe adversity the people of Syria are facing.
I have been wrestling with the juxtaposition of the terror that many are dealing with, and the generally “comfortable” life we live here in North America. I am struck by the privilege we have in just calling this continent home.
This is the conclusion I have come up with:
We live in a place where in general we have access to the help we need when we need it. We have clean water and the ability to get good food. Having said that, I realize that there are many, many people struggling within North America – it is a big problem our society is facing. I want to honour that, however it is different that the devastation happening right now in Syria.
One saying that irritates me to no end is—“that’s a First World problem.” The thing is that we live in the First World, so really any struggle any of us have to face on a daily basis is a “First World problem.” And that’s OK.
Years ago I attended a forward-thinking church community, and one of the mantra’s coined by leader Gary Best, was “one hand in, one hand out.” It's a sentiment that has stayed with me.
One Hand In – One Hand Out.
This simple phrase is what came to me as I was wrestling with this dichotomy.
It’s ok to seek contentment, mindfulness, peace and joy. Creating a practice that supports me to be the very best me that I can be is essential, despite what’s happening in the world.
Taking care of my well-being—my mental and physical health is non-negotiable. I am very much aware of what can happen to me when I don’t make it a priority, and I am committed to not delving back into the dark night of the soul. It was a dark and twisty place that I am choosing not to go back to. I also need to find a way to make money so that I can provide for my family. Enjoying the life and gifts I have been given, is a divine blessing.
I’m learning to hold onto those things with a loose grip. I don’t know what the future holds for this part of the world, or for me. I also want to live with intentional generosity, and that is easier for me to do when I look at my blessings with fluidity, rather than finite.
I don’t want to only focus on myself. I see the potential for an individualistic culture when all the focus is inward.
As important as it is for me to have one hand in with self-care, I feel very compelled to look outside of myself—to give.
I have realized that I become more ME as I share and give of myself. I worked for a non-profit for 20 years, and as that certainly didn’t bring me to a place that I would call myself rich in a financial sense, I feel incredibly rich in a transcendent sense.
The things I think about are:
- What is my “why”? How does my “why” impact the world?
- What is my gift to the world around me?
- How can I contribute to the world?
The tension of balancing the two personal missions of “one hand in, one hand out,” is no small feat. It’s all a part of the journey. Sometimes life might not be perfectly balanced. I’m reminding myself that there is a season for everything, and that I want to live intentionally.
So as we head into this Christmas season, I am inviting you to think about how you can have one hand in, and one hand out.
What will you do for self-care in this busy season? What will you say yes to, and what will you say no to? Think about making some time for self-reflection a priority during this time.
One the other hand what will you do to give some support to people who are struggling this season? I believe that all of us, no matter how much or how little money we have, can give something. Think about what you can give—whether it’s money, time or something you already have. You may want to give to a local cause, or perhaps to an organization that is making a difference with a larger global issue.
The point is that whether you choose to give your extra coat to the homeless person on the corner, donate money to support refugees, give to the food bank, or help out with a community Christmas dinner – you are doing your part to spread good will during a time that is very dark for so many.
Please, do something, anything.
Here are some websites and organizations of places that are in need of support and donations:
(If you know of some other charities you wish to highlight, please leave a comment below.)
If you want to support refugees coming into our country:
Middle Eastern Friendship Center: Surrey, BC – 1500 refugees arriving next week – looking for Any donations of kids clothes and toys, feminine hygiene stuff, and women's clothes http://www.mefriendshipcentre.com
Edmonton Mennonite Center for Newcomers (Edmonton, Alberta): They are looking for volunteers & donations to support refugees. http://emcn.ab.ca/volunteer/
ISS (Immigrant Services Society) of BC: ISS of BC is the largest agency of its kind in Western Canada, with targeted programs for refugees, women, children and youth, plus support services in over 45 languages. Programs and services are available throughout Metro Vancouver, Squamish and the Okanagan. They are looking for donations of clothing and toys and books for kids. http://www.issbc.org
Inasmuch Community Society - Peter and Dawn Lynn Prediger serve refugees in the community of Abbotsford, BC. They currently have a couple from Northern Iraq, and a 17 year-old refugee from Afghanistan living with them. The 17 year old is in grade 12 at Abby Senior and lives on $610 a month. He recently had dental work done and they own $3000 for the fee. This couple already does so much, and they need help to pay this bill. If you would like to donate some money to this amazing work they are doing, contact Dawn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Abbotsford Community Services: From promoting cross-cultural understanding and diversity to services for newcomers to Canada, ACS has a wide range of multi-cultural programs. (Financial donations - I would recommend that you specify that you want it to go to multi-cultural and immigrant services.) http://www.abbotsfordcommunityservices.com/programs/multi-cultural-immigrant-services
Mennonite Central Committee (Canada and the US): Sponsor a refugee family. http://mcccanada.ca/learn/what/refugees
Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Center Society: http://www.vircs.bc.ca
UFV Arab Club: The UFV Arab Club is partnering with other UFV clubs to hold a donation drive benefitting the 1,500 Syrian refugees arriving in Surrey at the end of this month! These will be young families and female-headed households. We will be collecting donations of the following items: Household items (cleaning supplies, kitchen items, etc.), Furniture (chairs, tables, couches, televisions, etc.), Bedding (blankets and pillows), Linens (pillow cases, blanket covers, etc.), Dishes, pots, and pans,Toiletries (shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.),Feminine hygiene products, Children's toys and clothing, Children's school items (notebooks, pencils, crayons, etc.), Women's clothes, Warm Clothes (mittens, hats, scarves, slippers), Non-perishable foods https://www.facebook.com/ufvac/timeline?ref=page_internal
Other Global Charities
Run For Water: If you want to support the movement for clean water in Africa, Run For Water does very important work. $37 provides clean water to one person for life and some other important things. http://www.runforwater.ca/
Food for the Hungry: Food for the Hungry is a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to ending poverty - one community at a time. With partners like you, FH walks alongside the most vulnerable communities throughout the developing world as they strive toward sustainability. Recognizing that each community faces unique challenges as well as advantages, FH is committed to an integrated, holistic approach to development including priorities such as agriculture, education, health, and gender equality. http://www.fhcanada.org
Opportunity International: Opportunity International unleashes the power of entrepreneurs in the developing world. Our innovative approach and services allow more people to expand their businesses, create jobs and change the world. http://opportunityinternational.ca/?from=US
International China Concern: International China Concern (ICC) is an organization committed to changing lives by bringing love, hope and opportunity to China’s abandoned and disabled. http://www.chinaconcern.org/
North American Charities
Your local food bank is likely in need of donations.
Canada Helps: An online platform with access to Canadian charities. https://www.canadahelps.org/en/
Tri-city Transitions: They are a respected and established 39+ year old charitable not-for-profit organization supporting our community by providing help and hope to women and families who have been impacted by violence and abuse. http://tricitytransitions.com/
BCSS: BCSS Victoria works on behalf of people with mental illness and their families. http://bcssvictoria.ca/about-us/get-involved
Matthew’s House: A home away from home dedicated to caring for children who live with complex healthcare needs. http://www.mattshouse.ca/
The Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery: The Copeland Center is a non-profit organization that provides training, consultation, and program activities to support the wellness and recovery journeys of individuals. (They are not able to issue Canadian tax reciepts.) www.CopelandCenter.com