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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Are there better ways we could be spending Christmas?

We made it back to Perth, Australia, in the nick of time on Christmas Eve, so we could spend Christmas with my family - my Mum, sister and her husband and children. On Christmas morning we watched the kids open their "hundreds" (quoting my cute little niece here) of presents. Combined with delight at seeing their excited little faces, however, I couldn't help feeling pangs of... what was it... guilt... sadness... regret even? (perhaps all three), that there were so many other children out there in the world who weren't receiving gifts, who didn't have one toy let alone hundreds, who had nothing to celebrate, and who probably didn't even have a meal that day. Later that afternoon we took the kids to their neighborhood park and while the guys played football with the boys, I built sandcastles in the sandpit with my niece while my Mum watched. While it was fun, I couldn't help but think that we could be somewhere else... as we've been driving around Australia we've been listening to rural ABC radio whenever we've had reception. I recalled the calls from various charity representatives in Australia asking listeners to donate food packages and kids toys to give to the poor and homeless. They were desperate this year as people had given less than usual due to the economic climate and their own precarious circumstances. On another program, listeners phoned in to chat about how they would spend Christmas Day. Most rattled off the usual Christmas plans - present opening with the kids in the morning, roast lunch with the in-laws, Turkey feast for dinner, a seafood barbecue by the beach with friends, and so on. However, two callers caught my attention. One was a woman who said her family - and a large family at that - were doing what they did every Christmas and spending the day serving people at a soup kitchen which was hosting a charity lunch for the homeless. They were doing something for people who no longer had a family, people who didn't have a home. Another woman, a 92 year old (yep, that's no typo), was doing what she did every year (indeed she donated her time once a week), and was going down to the "old people's home" to spend time with people who obviously weren't as fit and healthy as she was. It occurred to me I could be doing more. There are a couple of ideas for me there as to how we could spend our next Christmas. (And the makings of a New Year's resolution or two.) But I'm wondering what else we could be doing... any ideas?

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