Posted on Dec 11, 2017

Member's Statement: Christmas Spirit

With Carol Everest and Deborah Mahaux of the Strathcona Christmas Bureau

I have been influenced in how I view Christmas by the time I spent in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a devastated city beginning to rebuild after the fall of the Pol Pot era. I spent Christmas Day in the province of PrĂªy Veng, the most heavily bombed area of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. On that day I visited a hospital struggling to provide care with limited and unreliable supplies. I met many Cambodians who had lost limbs to the millions of antipersonnel mines scattered in their rice fields and ate rice that, while it had been carefully sorted, still had weevils in it, with the governor of the province. The night before I had asked the Cambodians working where I was staying what they thought about Christmas. They all commented on the extravagant parties that marked Christmas for the French and American foreigners they saw. No one understood that Christmas celebrated the birth of Christ and that it was a holiday of generosity and compassion.

I am grateful that the real spirit of Christmas is alive in communities throughout Alberta, including my own. Last week the Information and Volunteer Centre hosted a party, with dinner and gifts, for families struggling this Christmas. Trinity Baptist church hosted a Blue Christmas event for people feeling alone and challenged at Christmas. Next week the Strathcona Christmas Bureau will deliver hampers to over 500 families under the leadership of the two ladies I introduced earlier, Carol Everest and Deborah Mahaux. They ensure that every child gets at least one item on their wish list and a complete dinner, ready for Christmas Day.

This is a community-wide effort of generosity and empathy. It reflects what I believe is the thankfulness that many of us feel at Christmas when we are able to have enough not only for ourselves but to give to others as well. Acts of generosity and thankfulness are happening throughout our communities, in our schools and in our businesses. Others contribute overseas, be it through the Rotary or through their favourite relief and development organization.

Having celebrated Christmas both close to family and far away, with rich food and poor-quality rice, with friends and alone, I use Isaiah 9:6 and 7 as a reminder of the meaning of Christmas and the call to justice and righteousness.

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