All things being equal

Life is about balance. Work and play. Give and get. Spend and save. (Although this time of year it feels more like we’re spending our savings…)

Each Christmas, I attempt to reign in our holiday spending. With recent tax hits, looming lay-offs, and market slumps, we really do need to proceed with caution. (We also decided that this would be a great time to make a large, unnecessary, emotionally-driven investment, because obviously.)

I love Christmas, and all the gift-giving, cookie-baking, tree-decorating merriness that it brings, but I want our kids to know that there’s more to this season than get, get, get. They will have an amazing Christmas, and even though our household is feeling the pinch, we’re feeling it with vet bills, hockey fees and vacation plans. We still have food on the table. Many folks do not.

It was actually around the table that our family had this discussion. In an attempt to keep the kids in their seats long enough finish their meals, my husband and I asked them for their Christmas wish list. They’re aware that Santa brings one gift, and that there are limits to what that gift can be. (“But if Santa builds his toys, why does it matter if it costs too much?” says the six-year-old about the iPad that Santa will not be bringing.) Their want lists were a mile-long, which accentuated the fact that our need list is mercifully short.

Food Bank use in our province, Alberta, rose dramatically in the last year. (So much so that it increased the national average.) It’s up 83 percent since 2008. We do our part when it’s asked of us, for school food drives or clothing donations, but I’ve hardly been proactive when it comes to supporting our community. It’s shameful, really, because we all had much more to give during the boom. Now, during the bust, it’s the time when it’s needed most.

So on Tuesday, December 1 (officially proclaimed Giving Tuesday by the City of Calgary, following Black Friday and Cyber Monday) we’re starting a new tradition. Our doorbell will ring. Our girls will see that Santa has left a box of wish list items for the Calgary Food Bank’s Emergency Food Hamper. And they can do their part for their community, year after year.

It’s a small step. So small it’s almost nothing. But it’s something. And hopefully our kids will get the message that it’s ok to want something (other than an iPad, sorry sweetie) but it’s important, more important, to give.

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