It was a month before Christmas and Shawn had been mulling over the doom and gloom served up on cable and free to air stations. He’d been particularly moved by videos of millions of people on the move around the world looking for freedom, safety and economic opportunity and was rather surprised that in his own country with it’s evidence of prosperity as he drove around the city and travel internationally there was a hidden evil of millions living hand to mouth or on the streets out of sight. Poverty in a land of affluence is an embarrassment to authority and as far as possible attempts are made to protect affluent from having their consciences seared having to look on that reality. The scenes in his mind were troubling him. He turned to Annabel.
“Bel I’m really troubled at the numbers of people who can’t scrape up enough to find a place of their own to live and have enough to buy food or medical attention. No point in emptying our bank account as that wouldn’t even care for a fraction of the need and we’d become a burden ourselves not to mention the need to give our children a safe future. It’s such a hopeless situation but I can’t get it out of my mind.”
Annabel always smiled at Shawn using Bel as her pet name. She liked that. It seemed more intimate than him calling her Annabel. She dropped her handiwork and snuggled in close to him. She appreciated his sensitive nature. Despite the type of work he did he cared for the nastiest jobs in the nicest way. Some higher up in the corporation looked at it as a weakness, but those who worked under him and all their clients praised him for that sensitive nature and his integrity.
“What are these musings leading to Shawn.” She nudged him playfully.
“What if we decided not to give gifts to family and friends this year and tell them we are using Christmas gift money to support some charity. We must be selective about giving as there’s been some scandals about a charity or two syphoning off commissions to people who find donations for them as well as some dodgy administrative expenses. But I’m sure most of them are honest carers of the poor.”
Annabel thought about this silently and Shawn turned to see if she’d heard him. He could see her mulling it over in her mind.
“Shawn the girls would be very disappointed, and I have to confess I’d seen some toys they’ve been pestering me about on sale and purchased them. They’re hidden up in the garage where the girls can’t see them. I know it’s the right thing to do but it’s been a tradition to give gifts to each other at Christmas time. Both our parents and siblings look forward to giving and I suppose receiving in return. It is the spirit of Christmas to give to each other too. Between both of our jobs we’re quite well off now, so why don’t we just give a big donation to a place we research is doing a good job caring for those who have nothing? The families get together at Christmas and New Year turn-about. Maybe if you feel strongly about it we could talk it over with them and see what reaction we get.”
The next day as Shawn was assigning duties for staff of the national accounting firm, he happened to see one of the charities, a client of the company for annual audit pop up on his computer screen. The discussion with Annabel a few nights previous came to mind and he paused to do a rapid scan of its operations and noted the contact address. It was a client usually assigned to one of his trainee staff as it was a simple audit. On impulse he punched in their contact number and asked to be connected to the name he had on screen as contact person. He asked if it would be possible for him to get an appointment and the one receiving the call wondering if it was bad news there was something amiss in the previous audit quickly agreed. Shawn smiled sensing tension on the line after he hung up. Even those honest with nothing to hide were often nervous unless the reason for an appointment were explained. He realized he’d forgotten to put the man’s mind at rest and chuckled to himself. He phoned Annabel at the day care centre where she worked and their children attended to say he’d be late getting home that evening as he had an appointment after work.
The man with the anxious look greeting Shawn on arrival at the charity let out an audible sigh of relief as he learned the nature of Shawn’s visit. There’d been enough negative news on charities lately and while they were careful to meet audit requirements one could never be too sure the newspapers wouldn’t be breathing down their necks next. He enthusiastically detailed work they did in the community and the depth of need that existed few had a comprehension of in the community.
This was the time of year when they were gearing up to provide a week of special events in the distribution centres of this city and other cities where the charity operated in order to celebrate Christmas season. During the year the charity provided evening meals to those living on streets or in sub-standard abandoned tenements where they barely existed. They were the flotsam and jetsam in a sea of humanity who once had a useful existence but were swept away by circumstances beyond their control.
As one of these distribution centres happened to accommodate their head office Shawn was invited to accompany him to the ground floor where a large room with tables was beginning to be filled up with people many in a condition that obviously needed personal care. City Hall did what they could but with resources stretched they had their own limitations. Shawn watched as a line was formed and each stumbled forward mechanically to get their only good meal for the day. On the forehead of each was stamped the mark of community rejection. Some sat after collecting their meal in animated conversation, but a significant number sat sullenly looking down at their food then silently got up and shuffled to the door to return to fight for a sheltered place on the streets.
Shawn turned his attention to the serving line and noted food was constantly being delivered to the serving deck from an elevator that originated from basement kitchens. It was well organized and those serving offered a cheerful greeting to those they served, some were long termers known by name.
Shawn was deeply moved by his experience. If this was his city and there were more distribution places in the city what an enormous and heartbreaking relief organization this must be on an international level. The plight of millions of refugees around the world became much more real as he took in this tip of the iceberg situation. The one in charge was used to this reaction from first timers.
“All are volunteers on the front line of this work!” He looked at Shawn hopefully then realizing the position Shawn held in the business world shrugged realizing this would not be a possible volunteer recruitment.
Shawn spoke at last. “Do you mind if I bring my wife and children to see this sometime and must I make an appointment?”
The man shrugged. “It’s not the best part of town to be at night, these people are desperate and sometimes antagonistic to rich don’t carers and they don’t know how to make a difference between those who care and those who don’t unless it happens to be people known to them. All our volunteers would have safe passage and our buildings and equipment are respected because they know it’s hurting themselves to cause us loss. You took a risk bringing your car here and you may find it keyed or windows broken if you are here after dark. If you’re serious let me know and I’ll have our people mover pick you up and deliver you home. Your children would be quite safe in our care, but what’s your purpose in coming?”
“I don’t know, I just want my wife and children to see this. I notice you had children on the food line tonight too.”
“Children are another story and it’s a sad one. Let’s not go there.”
To be continued
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