CHRISTMAS GIVING

DION OXFORD

Giving only at Christmas
Dion Oxford

Christmas is coming soon, which means that the phones at the shelters and drop bins for people who are homeless will soon start ringing with offers to help, more calls than any other time of the year.
Wyatt this season? For one thing, Christmas is a time when many of us pause to reflect. We count her blessings – the gifts of family
, friends, community, and Jesus. Reflection often shows us how we have more than many other people. Even those of us who aren’t reflective notice this when we attend parties or dinners where there are tables overflowing with food. In our society. Christmas is also a time of great stress. People are scrambling to get ready for the big day. People go mad trying to get all of the presents they need for everybody. People maxed out their credit cards and work extra shifts to try and keep up with the financial demands placed on them. Marketers and advertisers wring their hands with lust over all the potential money to be made. Our consumer driven marketplace and our
– keeping up with the Joneses – mentality kicks into high gear – people stop at nothing to keep up. Christmas is also a time when people can feel the loneliest. Pausing to reflect those and make everyone thankful – many people reflect on their dire circumstances. Lonely people feel the most longing for someone to love and to love them in return.
People on the streets. Take time to reflect on the complete loss of connection to family and friends and the things that most people cherish.
So there’s a lot to motivate people at Christmas time to try and help people who are poor and homeless. For many it’s a way to experience the blessing of giving and of self-sacrifice. For some it becomes a guilt offering. For others it becomes a ritualistic thing to do at Christmas time that bring some charitable joy to them. As director of the shelter., I have mixed feelings about all those phone calls with offers to help during this season. I experience joy that so many people want to help, so I do all I can find something for people to donate their time to during the season. I most definitely accept all financial gifts that come my way during the season, as we desperately need the money to keep things going.
However, I often find myself full of discontent as well. I began to wonder if people think my homeless friends are needy only at Christmas time. I reflect on the fact that I along with the rest of my staff and other friends who’ve committed our lives to working with folks on the street, and hear all year long with people who are hurting and needy. I certain think that most of the people I’ve known who died on the streets have died during the summer due to heat exhaustion and other heat related health problems. I begin to wonder where all the people who offer their time and money at Christmas. Go during the rest of the year.
A few years back a group of women from a church outside Toronto began to realize that people are hurting all year round. They started knitting socks, scarves and hats to distribute to the hundred and eight residents at the shelter. They brought hundreds of handknit winter clothing items for our guys. It was really very beautiful. But they didn’t do this during Christmas. They did it in February. They decided that every year they would bring in all of the handmade items after Christmas and call it a Merry February. This event never ceases to bring a tear of joy and satisfaction to my I.
We often hear messages of not being just Sunday Christians. I pray also that we would not just be Christmas Christians, but that we take the time to remember and support – widows and orphans – in our communities 12 months of the year.
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Christmas drop-in

Christmas time at the drop-in is a riot of activity and emotion. And I do mean riot – big, unpredictable, loud, energetic, hilarious and tragic, exhilarating and often violent. Altogether, December is the most exhausting month of my year, both physically and emotionally.
As it is for most charities, it’s by far the busiest month for donations. Food, clothing, money, sleeping bags, gifts, and offers to help stream in at a miraculous rate, challenging our resources to handle, store, and respond. It truly is wonderful. The experience of passing such bounty out such needy people is a rare and touching on her. The enough to cause you to seeing Gloria in excelsis deo! And is usually enough to help us float through the doldrums of the first quarter of the new year.
On the other side of it though, there is no other time of the year when my friends were stuck on the street, trapped by addiction number ruined by family feel so completely useless. Rejected, on the outside of everything good and happy. Emotions are raw, imperiously close to the surface
. Memories of Christmas past whether fonder better seem impossible to suppress and every bit as haunting as Dickens ghosts. Each year, it seems, some hard bitten long-term street guy stags me in a quiet corner of the drop-in and asks – to make a long-distance call from your office? The eyes and feet shifts uncertainly, and I know that the call will be made to mom or dad or to a son or daughter. It’ll be short, awkward, and very painful. You wipe his eyes and nose on the sleeve of his jacket, or Burger King napkins if I have any, and ask if he can just sit on the couch in my office for a few minutes. Okay going to the drop-in center look like this. He says.
The people of our community work hard to try and soften the harsher blows of the Christmas season for each other. We tried to focus on Jesus, of course we pass around the largess of our generous supporters. Those who have homes generally try to welcome a few more people in than usual. Like any other community, we throw a few parties. Traditionally this some kind of celebration on Christmas Eve. And a few other events as well. But the big one is always the Wednesday before Christmas.
We have a complete turkey dinner for Christmas with stuffing, cranberries, gravy, potatoes and sweet potatoes in three or four other vegetable dishes, roles, juice, coffee and tea, dozens of pies, platters of baking prepared. Pre-Christmas baking parties and on and on and on. This year each person received a beautiful and unique gift bag. The bags were filled with small gifts that are useful and frivolous. One of our people living in a hostel herself pled for the opportunity to go out and buy Christmas crackers and so one lay beside each plate
. There was a huge evergreen wreath over the fireplace. An evergreen garlands around the poles running down the middle of the room. Centerpieces with candles flickered on every table. And, of course, a fresh cut Christmas tree. Two or three people were putting the lights on it, and the Col. was trolling the room with a box of ornaments, insisting each person take one and hang it on the tree. Col. has long white hair and a voice like the last yard of gravel sliding off the dump truck. He’s hard to deny.
A small group flaked out on the couches and on the floor around the fireplace, dozing or chatting quietly. Popping sounds around the room announced the fact that some were snapping their crackers – did chuckle about the sad little pop! They made, laugh a bit. And when they pulled on the silly paper hats inside, groan when they read each other. The jokes written on little piece of paper, and bicker about who’s crackers contained the best impossible cheap and tiny plastic toy or puzzle.
Some of the people who are still sleeping outside received survival bags – street survival kits – including a sleeping bag, hat, mittens, socks, a flashlight and a variety of other treasures, supplied to us by our friends in the community. Some of our people. It’s been out there long enough that the magic of these wondrous bags had worn off but does it ever received one before slowly pulled out each precious items from the black nylon duffel, considered it, and slowly packed it away again. But the bag down by the chair. Such that every few minutes. Moved it under the chair. [Up, took an item or two out again, and then put it away again.
Christmas music was playing gently in the background, the usual cribbage game was underway, grown men and women were poaching cookies and candies from each other. Like goofy children, light laughter and conversation rose from every corner of the crowded room. Credit is usually good for us, and especially Christmas when emotions are high, but this time was different. It was more than peace, which is precious and rare enough in our context. It was joy! The usual undercurrent of sorrow and anger was missing, and with it the clenched faces and forced smiles, which are this standard markers of just trying to get through this without taking a swing at anybody. There was an atmosphere of genuine and even slightly giddy celebration
I may have been the only person there who was out of sorts.
The day before I received word that a friend of mine had died suddenly of a massive heart attack. I’ve been angry about such things before, but mostly now I just feel weary and defeated. I could see all the wonderful stuff that was happening around me, but couldn’t stop thinking about his wife and two young children. A week before Christmas. Choosing funeral options instead of trying to figure out how to sneak presence into the house.
I found myself rehearsing the reasons why what we were doing really mattered. I suppose it was still a good thing if my friends here at the drop-in experience some peace and joy, even if was just for a little while, even if most of them still weren’t able to connect that experience in any direct way with Jesus. I suppose so. It just seemed kind of pointless.
I was standing by the front door talking to a visitor. When Buddy interrupted our conversation, as he often does. People one chunky arm across my shoulders, patted my chest for the other hand, and told the visitor – I love this guy. He’s a great guy a really good pastor. He’s my friend, – just so the message could be mistaken. He repeated it a few more times.
I continued on down the stairs to the drop-in room. There were about 85 people seated – 10 or 15 more than the reasonable capacity. Suspecting a big crowd – the staff had agreed that, for once we would all avoid sitting down ourselves to make sure everyone else was able to. As I cruise the room, I noted one seat still empty, despite the fact that people waiting for spots.
As it turned away to motion some of the empty chair. The Col. spoke up loudly – that seats for you!
Yep. Brian added. We wouldn’t let anybody else sit there. We been telling everyone else to well I will tell you what we’ve been telling them to do
I had no choice. I sat down. My friends filled my plate with food in my ears with laughter…
He’s a big man. Big enough to have been tagged with the inevitable street name tiny. When the meal was over and cleaned up but almost everyone else. At last he sat me down for a chat. With glistening eyes. He told me how his life changed since coming to the drop-in, how he’d begun to live again, climbing out of the pit of depression. He slipped into following the death of his wife. He found God and surprise he knew Jesus. He told me about various people who’d been important to him, most especially Karen but then he looked at me in the eye and leaned close as he told me in no uncertain terms of his love and appreciation for me. I got no answers about the death of my friend just three clear gentle reminders about why am here. Because this is where I need to be. Because this is where God can reach me. And he does. He really does
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let’s blame the poor

Theme music comes over the studio loudspeakers.sort of the suite, Barry Manilow kind of sound, except without the hard rock adage that so many people find objectionable in Manilow’s music. The camera pans over ecstatic faces of studio audience, then picks up the host entering from stage left as announcer enthusiastically proclaims – it’s the new hot game show that’s sweeping the nation! It’s time for – here the audience joins in chanting – let’s… Lame… The poor! With your zany host Johnny good time!!

Thank you! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to – let’s blame the poor! – The show that asks the question – hey, buddy, how come you’re poor? Must be because and hear the audience joins in – it’s www.all….Your www.vault!! Ha ha Ha! Let’s meet today’s celebrity judges… Don?

Yes, we’ve got it. Great panel today, Johnny – some of the finest brains in America.and their bodies to! First from our nation’s capital. Let’s welcome Sen. Jesse Helms – applause –. From California, fresh from her husband’s disappointing Senate campaign, Mrs. Arianne Huffington – applause –. And finally, from a distant unnamed planet Mr. Pat Robinson – applause –.
And who are our contestants today. Don?

Their names are….Oh it doesn’t really matter who they are.after all – giggle – their poor!

Oh yeah, I forgot.anyway.let’s start off the show by chatting superficially with our judges while pretending that were interested.Sen. Helms, tell us a little about yourself.

Wait a minute.that cameraman over there is colored dot. They told me there weren’t going to be no colored people here….

Calm down Sen. Dodd will ask him to leave.how would you Mr. Robertson would you do for a living

I am God’s messenger, warning the people of the coming millennium of darkness predicted by the holy Scriptures. And I also sell stuff.

Fascinating. Say, I got a prediction for you. I predict they’ll lose interest in what you’re saying right but… About www.now! Ha Ha! Just kidding Pat. Okay, let’s meet our last judge the very attractive Mrs. Michael Huffington

Call me Adriana
I’ll call you later a but… But I digress.Don?

Right you are, Johnny.today’s first contestant lives in an economically depressed neighborhood of a major US city.she is unmarried, has no marketable skills and little education. Judges, hands on your buzzers.who’s to blame?

Buzz!

Sen., what’s your answer?

I just saw another colored person.he’s in the back over there by that door….Buzz

Mr. Robertson can you answer the question?

Yes, I can Johnny dot in the fourth chapter of Revelation, the Lord spake with the rod of the serpent and the the fetlocks of a goat, and he saith, that…

Pat?

The Angels of darkness would say – smite! Smite! Smite! And the maggots….No, it wasn’t the maggots, sorry, wrong chapter. It was actually a really gross looking giants beetle…

Eartha Pat! – Buzz excavation Mark! Mrs. Huffington, can you answer the question!

Is it him all her fault

Yes! Yes! – Applause – that is correct, Mrs. Huffington, and year on the board with an impressive first score… Don?

Our next contestant lives in a rural coal mining area.he recently lost his job. 28 years because a machine can date faster than he can.judges, who is to blame?

Buzz!

Sen. Helms?

Is he Jewish? Does he looks Jewish to me.look at that swarthy skin color and is high and mighty ways.I don’t like…… Buzz!

Mr. Robertson?

….And the snakes curled around the firstborn, and they were sore afraid. And who can blame them? Those New Testament snakes were as big around as one of those artificial fireplace logs….

Buzz!

Mrs. Huffington?

Well, because it’s all his fault!

Yes! Yes! – Enthusiastic applause – right again, Mrs. Huffington! Whoa! You’ve built quite a lead. Let’s see if you can hang onto this? Don

Johnny, our last contestant hails from East Los Angeles. He’s a teenager. He recently dropped out of high school because of his low self-esteem. Who’s to blame? Think carefully judges and no prompting from the audience

Buzz! Pat?

Can you repeat the question, please? – Buzz!

Sen.?

Guilty!

Incorrect. He’s not on trial here. That’s another show. Ms. Huffington. Would you like to take a guess?

I thought that… I’m sorry.I really don’t know.

Audience?

Loudly loudly – frantically – because it’s… All… His… Fault!

Yes! Yes! They’ve got it. What an audience. – Applause – what a show! I’m exhausted! And were almost out of time. Don, tell us about the exciting prizes. We’ve got for our participants.

Johnny, today’s judges will receive the home version of – let’s blame the poor! As well as a hefty tax exemption on their vacation homes… Unfortunately? Our contestants will be getting anything. But don’t blame us. It’s their fault!

Camera pulls back.the music comes up, sort of sweet, Barry Manilow kind of sound, except without that hard rock image that so many…
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prisons above safety
in Canada crime rates are falling steadily and have been for the past 20 years. The crime rates are now at their lowest level that they’ve been since 1973
so, for many, it’s both surprising and disturbing that the Canadian government has chosen this time to introduce harsher laws and tough on crime stances in order to deter crime. Bill C 10 is an omnibus legislation that covers the drastic and vastly expensive new laws to deal with the problem that currently does not exist.
The overall effect of this bill as it is made law is that more people will be in prisons, both by mandatory minimum sentencing and by longer terms of sentences. This is going to be a huge financial burden on the provincial government.
While it is the federal government that is pushing Bill C 10 through Parliament it is the provincial governments that foot the bills for most prisons.
Provinces are already taxed to find the money for health and education, prisons are much more expensive then these other services, either provinces will have to raise taxes or reduce their programming. This means that there will be more people in prison with less services being offered to them. The services, which include counseling, health care and treatment for addiction and mental health issues, are those that can actually serve to treat the causes of criminal activity. Without proper preventative services in place, those within the criminal justice system will often have no way of getting out of the system and rates of her services and stand to rise. This is a real concern for all Canadians. If the point was to make the streets safer. The government is not going to succeed
. The number one thing to note is that crime rates have been going down steadily. This legislation is coming in a very odd time. The one thing that could lead to a safer society is the rehabilitation programs that help people deal with their issues that might lead them to crime. Safety generally doesn’t improve with longer sentences, as people who spend longer time in the prison system without access to services become even more hard. This can have the result of making the streets less safe while feeding back into the enhanced prison system
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