One story that will always stay with me is the way someone extraordinary, a person incredibly special to me, found out there was no Santa Clause when he was a child. His out of work parents couldn’t afford to buy their children any presents, so they simply told them the truth. It was the early ‘90s and a myriad of political, economic and social changes, as well as personal choices lead to that situation. But what difference do all those reasons make to a child?… In a different part of the same town, my family (or at least my grandparents) was undergoing its own decline, but our “bad” was nowhere near theirs and so many other families’. There was a Christmas tree in our home, beautiful gifts under it, and plenty of food for all of us – enough to spare, in fact…
Some 30 years later, many things are different in our little corner of the world. And yet, disturbingly many have remained the same. In November, about a month before Christmas, World Vision Romania’s heartbreaking statistics pointed out the sad truth yet again. In rural areas, 1 out of 2 families cannot afford to buy any gifts for their children; 1 parent out of 6 has less than the equivalent of 2€ to spend on children’s gifts, and 1 out of 3, less than 10€; 7 out of 10 parents would choose to offer necessary items like clothes, shoes or school supplies instead of something which would only provide joy to a child.
Outrage was, of course, the standard reaction. Doubt and disbelief followed – that can’t possibly be true, those number must be wrong (media outlets that hyped the news and created some confusion in the way they presented everything in order to make it sound more sensational didn’t help, of course). Then a different sort of outrage was unavoidable – outrage against a useless state, outrage against unfit parents or both. Then, as everything else, it faded away, and we – especially those of us inhabiting large urban areas, went on with our lives and our own compulsive Christmas shopping. After all, how can any of that be true, when shopping centres and stores of all sorts are filled with people and merchandise flies off the shelves this time of year?
I don’t know whether the numbers are right or not; but I believe they could be, and I know there’s lots of that going on in urban areas as well. I also know that there are unfit homes and families, and the state should and could do a lot more at least for the children living in that environment, if not for the adults as well. But how does it help a child to know that their misery is a corrupt state’s fault? And yes, a Christmas tree, a toy and/or a nice meal won’t change a child’s life; but is that to say they don’t even deserve to experience at least one moment of joy, of what life should be for all children?
Like I said, financially speaking things were not always great for my family when I was a child living with my grandparents. But there was always food on the table on Christmas, there was always a tree… And every year we stuck to our little tradition, my grandmother and I – we put together a bag of clothes, shoes, toys and school supplies that I no longer needed or had outgrown and took them to a certain family in my great-grandmother’s village. Was my grandmother doing it out of the goodness of her heart? Hell no, but that’s another story; and it made no difference to those children anyway.
That’s my whole point – if we can, we should do/donate a little something to help a needy child/family, regardless of why we do it. The numbers may not be the same everywhere, but there are people in need, no matter where we live. Is it guilt, generosity, desire to show off? Who cares, as long as that decent deed is done and an innocent soul can have at least one good day a year… because yes, one good day is better than no good day at all. And here’s the thing… even if we’re not exactly well-off, even if we do work incredibly hard for what we have, but are sitting in our cosy, perhaps nicely decorated homes, behind our computers/smartphones/tablets, our belies full and our bodies warm, then we surely can spare a little something for a starving freezing child…
Stay safe, everyone, be kind and share some of the joy!