The city is bathed in a Christmas glow. As I walk down the financial district in Toronto, I can’t help but notice the sparkling Christmas trees that light up the entrance to every major financial building. Just up the street is a holiday market – an eclectic mix of vendors promoting everything from trinkets to chocolate fudge. Despite the -20C wind chill and my nearly frozen hands, I feel warm inside as if the Christmas glow has literally seeped into every fiber of my being. It is a state of bliss that everyone of us who has the privilege of living in a developed country should be grateful for.
The Christmas glow is a reminder that I live in a wealthy Western city – a benign, worry-free city that has not been challenge by political unrest and violent acts by foreign entities- a fact of life in many US and European cities. And I am thankful for the safety and comfort of my city. On the day I strolled through downtown, I was also aware of the scourge of homelessness in the city. Homeless men and women are huddled inside their comforters or layers of blankets in almost every street corner. It is not uncommon to nearly stumble over one of them in the holiday hustle and bustle. The only line of defense between these men and women and the unforgiving chill of cold December nights is a blanket or sometimes a piece of cardboard or a dog, possibly the only companion they have in the world. I thought to myself that nobody should have to endure the brutal force of Mother Nature no matter who they are. While we live in a state of bliss, there are others who by various circumstances cannot see the joy of the holiday season no matter how tall the Christmas tree is at the local mall.
The holiday season is a perpetual reminder of the disparity between those who have too much and those who have very little. There are those who suffer from excess – too much holiday food, too many useless possessions that Salvation Army is only too happy to take; too many books waiting to be read and too many Christmas gifts only to be re-gifted. There are those who barely survive with nothing but a blanket shielding them from the elements. Toronto is a prime example of a city that has seen run-away growth in in condo development while another set of citizens live in a parallel universe.
Yes, t’is the season to be grateful for what we have everyday. But our blessings are not just found around Christmas time; they are found every day of the year. If you ever find yourself suffering from excess – a problem that seems to only affect people in developed Western countries – be grateful that you have too much to spare. Let’s turn that excessive amount of material possessions into an excessive amount of charity to spread to those who need it the most – every day of the year.