Written by Karen Giesbrecht & Simeon Pang—originally posted at Plantednetwork.ca
Christmastime amplifies things. Everything seems bigger and brighter as the days draw closer to the coming of the Christ and all the seasonal traditions and festivities that surround this global event. There are opportunities for creativity, generosity, closeness and sharing the love that the holidays generate.
But there are also amplified occasions for loneliness and inequality. How can a moment in history that brings such a great light into the lives of believers the world over, also be the advent for people experiencing some of the darkest times of the year? And how is this hope for love and acceptance communicated by the smallest things?
At Christmastime, sweet and spicy latte from Starbucks, in attractive red cups is one of our favourite treats. But they also symbolize something we are increasingly distressed by. Almost every week, we see our friends on the edges of poverty walk into a community meal with a disposable cup from Starbucks or other specialty coffee shop in the neighbourhood.
A few folk have likely fished the cup out of the garbage, hopefully rinsed it out, and filled it with free coffee from a local charity. Others have spent the few dollars they have on the drink, forgoing more nourishing food or other necessities. But why? Maybe because good coffee communicates status, especially at a time of year that highlights the differences between the rich and the poor. The red cup communicates:
In Vancouver, in particular, we are rich in good coffee shops. And we are rich in folk who are willing to donate time, goods or money to help those in need, especially around Christmastime. To all of you who show such tangible kindness – Thank-you, thank you, thank you!
However, during this season of generosity and cheer, let us consider that sometimes the way we help can actually hurt the recipients.
Here’s how: sometimes when we give or volunteer, we do so in a manner that increases feelings of shame and inequality for the recipients who are not encouraged to do what they can for themselves, or who are not afforded opportunities to be generous themselves with what they have.
As we seek to celebrate the dignity of all those we serve & serve alongside, here are a few ideas to consider:
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” ~Maya Angelou