Photo: Flickr / Thusi Haveseen

Don’t be an asshole this Christmas

‘Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the one who is most righteous.’ (Quran 49:13)

Each one of us defines ‘righteous’ in a variety of ways, right down to the simplest things, like helping someone on the street, or taking care of a best friend. Some people will argue that people should fend for themselves, and if someone is on the street, it’s because they deserve to be there, or maybe they’re lazy and didn’t work hard enough to get off the street. By this reasoning, helping them is not behaving in a righteous manner, but rather enabling their failings.

The people who would argue the above are definitively assholes.

Do you remember when you were growing up and people asked what you wanted to be when you were older, and you said, ‘living on the street’ or perhaps ‘sleeping beneath a bridge’?

No? Me neither.

What about when you answered: ‘alone!’

Yeah! Me neither.

My mum tends to travel over the holidays, and most of my friends are usually out of town or at family Christmas dinners: drunk, and working out their issues. Basically, I have always been — more often than not — alone over the Christmas holidays. Almost everything is closed. A girl can only read so much and see so many films over the course of a few days.

Thing is, even though we don’t celebrate Christmas, I do love all of its accoutrements. On some level, the holiday resonates with me. When I’m alone, that resonance can turn into a slight depression in my spirits if I am not careful. I distinctly still remember four years back when no-one was even on-line – bbm, facebook, email, text…nothing. It was crushing. I’m someone who is very comfortable being alone, so imagine how bad it had to get before I actually felt like it was too much.

Here are a couple of tips for the holidays, which you should carry with you throughout your year if you can. (And please note, I am not at all comparing being inside, safe and sound and warm if alone, with being on the street. I am merely trying to make a connection for those of us who would never see a connection between ourselves, and those who too many of us ignore.)

First is the easy one: don’t leave your single friends alone. Surely, you must have room for one more. Surely. To clarify: possess enough emotional intelligence to note that if they’re there for you 360 days a year, now is not the time to leave them alone. Even a simple ‘thinking of you’ text message is better than nothing. And unless your fingers are broken, there is no excuse to not do this.

There’s something really sad and alienating about being left alone at a time of year that’s meant to be about family, and thankfulness. There is a reason that the highest rate of suicide happens around this time of year. This is the time of year you are meant to be thankful and loving, and that doesn’t only hold true for your blood kin. Don’t forget about us who may not have family in the City, or who may not normally celebrate Christmas and so are de facto outside of the circle of Noel.

Go through your friend list in your head, and you will find at least one person who fits this description. Now, make a point of reaching out to them and engaging them. Trust me on this one. Please.

The second tip is harder and more important: if a regular everyday Maha with a full social schedule and a loving circle of friends can feel so alienated and sad over the holidays, imagine what it is like for someone who lives on the street. Imagine someone who is already alienated and troubled. The majority of homeless have come from childhoods of abuse; often, this is sexual. Many have mental health issues.

Don’t ever kid yourself about this fact: No one wants to live on the street by choice.

Here’s something I came across recently, which is amazing, and what better way to teach your children about righteousness, than by leading by example? ‘Guerrilla Giving’ started (and still happening) by a garbage man in Edmonton. Each year his family and friends fill backpacks for individual homeless people, and hand them out.

In each backpack they include:

  • A wallet with $25.00 cash (optional if you don’t have it).
  • A personalised Christmas card, signed by the family.
  • Christmas treats and snacks or granola bars & soup packets.
  • Items for warmth such as long-johns, gloves, hoodies, tea-light candles, thermos, toiletries.

They target individuals. They avoid churches and shelters, as they want to give with no pre-conditions of religious affiliation. They always shake their hand, or hug them, and wish them well before they leave them to open their packages.

You don’t need to do this at Christmas. In fact, you don’t need a reason to do this at all, except maybe to make the active choice to be thankful for your shelter. To be thankful for your food. To be thankful for your ability to have a Christmas tree, at the foot of which your family sits. To be thankful that you were not abused. To be thankful that you do not have a reason to be on the street. To be thankful that you can purchase a backpack and fill it. To be thankful.

And aren’t these reasons truly in the spirit of Christmas? More so than the twenty gifts beneath your tree? You don’t need to do this at Christmas. But I am placing my bets on this time of year, when people are meant to live within the spirit of this holiday.

I guess this coming year, maybe our resolutions should be on a foundation of: I resolve to not look away. Happy holidays dear readers. Thank you for sharing your stories and your hearts, for uplifting mine when it has been prostrate on the ground, confused by Heaven’s will. May your season be filled with love, light, and warmth. And may you possess the generosity of heart to share these things with those less fortunate.