I observed a disturbing phenomenon in the weeks leading to Christmas and now that enough time has lapsed for charitable requests to diminish and emotions to settle, I feel I can rant about it. I might not have noticed had this not happened three times within two days, all on Facebook.
Someone posted information about how to assemble a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Included was a video showing the joyful abandon on the faces of children receiving their boxes—gleeful smiles no one could Photoshop. Below were several comments, mostly positive, such as “Mine’s done!” or “Our family’s doing three this year.”
But one person felt the need to bring some balance (I presume) by quoting a missionary from a third world country where the boxes are distributed. The missionary “hated” shoebox time because she’d seen some children left out and she’d seen culturally inappropriate gifts included in the boxes. I asked if it would be better for no child to receive a gift. The person replied that perhaps it should be better organized.
Seriously? I guess you don’t need to be well-organized to get 664,000 shoeboxes from across Canada into the hands of hurting children around the world each year.
A friend was working with students from PCI, collecting gift box items for women spending their holiday at the women’s shelter. Again, among the comments, was this joy-killer: “That shelter doesn’t let us speak Ojibway.”
Admittedly, I have no idea what the story is behind that statement. But let’s suppose it’s the worst case scenario and no one is “allowed” to speak Ojibway at the shelter, ever. Does that mean the women in the shelter’s care should be denied Christmas gifts? Where’s the logic in that?
Some gay activists called for a boycott of the Salvation Army’s Christmas kettles due to alleged discrimination. The SalvationArmy helps 1.8 million vulnerable and marginalized people across Canada each year. Their Code of Conduct is readily available online and includes their policy forbidding discrimination: “Prohibited grounds of discrimination include race, colour, gender, disability, ethnic or national origin, age, religion, creed, marital or family status, sexual orientation, or any other grounds covered by human rights legislation within Canada.” They uphold the dignity of all people, believing all are equal in the eyes of God, and firmly oppose the mistreatment of any person. Which means if workers within the organization violate this code, they do so without the support of the Salvation Army and must be reported.
I personally spent two afternoons at Sally Ann helping register clients for Christmas hampers. Not once was I asked about my sexual behaviour nor was I instructed to ask any of the people I was registering. I was impressed with the high level of respect and organization that goes into the preparation of over 500 custom-packed hampers for people in the Portage la Prairie area alone.
I would not be surprised to learn the Salvation Army has helped more homeless and hungry gay people than all other groups combined—but we’ll never know, because they’ll never ask.
No charity is perfect. If we humans were capable of creating a perfect charity, we wouldn’t require charities. We’d have risen above the need for shoeboxes, women’s shelters and Christmas hampers. But we haven’t. Thank God, many decent and honorable groups work hard to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a broken, beaten world.
Yes, there are always ways to do things better and most organizations improve each year. But to those who criticize and call for boycotts, I ask: what are YOU doing? How many needy have YOU helped?