“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
This quotation from Dickens’s classic A Tale of Two Cities comes to mind this time of year, as we plunge into the season of giving.
First, the best. The Cowichan Valley is a very giving place, filled with compassionate and generous people, many of whom don’t have a lot themselves. Yet at Christmas they still find a way to fill the holiday wishes of those who have so little that there would be no holiday without the incredible Valley charities and organizations that step to the fore in December to make sure there’s at least a little something under the tree for everyone, and a holiday meal on the table.
From the Valley’s food banks to the Salvation Army, Cowichan Lake Community Services and Cowichan Neighbourhood House, those is need have plenty of places to turn, whether they require a Christmas turkey or some gifts for the children.
It’s amazing and heartwarming how people in this Valley always step up for their neighbours, businesses pitch in with bikes or adopt families, providing food and gifts, and some even offer their talents on stage to help fill the shelves of the local food bank.
But, second, there is also the worst. The worst is that all of this generosity seems to be needed more and more each year.
This time of year is a stark reminder of how many people in the Cowichan Valley are living so close to, or under the poverty line, unable to afford an expense like Christmas. And while the outpouring of help this time of year is welcome, one has to ponder what these folks do the rest of the year, as other occasions come and go, or they are struck by emergencies that carve out unaffordable portions of their meagre income.
How many are we talking about? Hundreds upon hundreds. Cowichan Neighbourhood House alone, on their Facebook page, reported on Dec. 12 that they had 400 people on their Adopt-a-Family list. It’s overwhelming.
The Cowichan Lake Community Services hamper drive seems to expand annually.
So while our largesse in December is wonderful, we need to dig a little deeper and address the roots of this stark need in our community, coming up with a solution that will last 365 days of the year.
It’s great to help out with a one-off. But getting people on their feet so they no longer need that help should be the ultimate goal. It won’t be easy, but it’s time to turn it around.