It is often said ‘This is the time for Family’. Thinking back to the Christmas’s of the past it is the memories with my friends and family that I remember. We as a family would watch all the Christmas classics. Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ was a lesson my family shared with me about the importance of all people. A Christmas Carole should not be as relevant today as when it was written. We should have learned from the lessons about the struggles of the working poor and a business solely focused profit. There are too many people like ‘Bob Cratchit’s living amongst us. People working hard but for low wages, while others get rich from their labours. There are Bob Cratchit’s of all races, genders and cultural backgrounds. There are also too many people like Tiny Tim who can’t access medical care. People who can’t put food on the table. People who go to work everyday, yet live a life without. People and families who often work two or more low paying jobs, yet fall further behind.
Yet this is 2016 and once again this is a time to put family and especially children first. If we want a strong country, strong communities, it will start with families, youth and children. It will start by allowing everyone a place at the table. It will start by all of us understanding our role as grandparents, parents or community members is to create a better, healthier world for everyone, not just the few. Are we doing that? Are we having our voices heard in support of the future, in support of people? Are we fighting for good paying jobs for everyone?
Putting families and children first doesn’t just mean filling their stockings once a year. It means committing to creating long-term jobs. It means making families and young workers strong. It means creating the healthy society where we recognize our responsibility in making a better world for the generations that follow us. It means us understanding the world isn’t always about what I want. It means our generosity at this time a year, our commitment to everyone enjoying a holiday meal and opens a gift, needs to be how we think all year.
In my novel ‘The Fates’ I wrote about a future where we just took care of that top 1%. A future without family, a future without children, a different kind of immortality. A world where all that mattered was ‘the one or the few’. What a world would look like if we put our own needs, our survival above everyone else’s. This dystopian look at the future is less science fiction than one would think as our society in one way or another puts the needs of a few ahead of the needs of the many. Wealth without responsibility or purpose is creating a social inequality that is keeping far to many people in poverty. Yet our culture seems to not only teach this as the way of life but makes the Scrooges of the world the heroes of today.
If we remember the story of ‘Scrooge’ we recognize it is about a businessman that does well but pays his workers poorly. Scrooge’s wealth grows but his life is empty. It is the vision of his Christmas past, present and future that changes what Scrooge does and brings him back to who he was before greed took him over.
It is the story of George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ where no one would ever want to be Mr. Potter. Yet we have a world full of Potters where we now live in a time where we need a world full of heroes like George Bailey who focus on building communities and recognizing that people need to work and have a decent place to live even if it means lower profits. George Bailey understood life was more than just money. He refused to sacrifice who he was and the quality of life of others, just so he could have more. In the end George Bailey understood life is about family, is about friends, is about community.
These days I find myself wanting less but wanting to do more. I find myself thinking more about the families and children in my school and the struggles many of them are having to make ends meet. I find myself thinking not only about the poor but the working poor. I find myself wondering how we have let ourselves stray so far from the values that make us Canadian. I find myself knowing we need to put families, children and our young people first. I find myself knowing that if we all stopped and thought about those things that are truly the most important, we would worry less about things we had and put more into the people in our lives.
This time of year and all year it must be about putting people first. It must be about each of us doing even the smallest action to help each other. It can be as small as a smile, or shovelling the neighbours walk, to coaching a team, to hiring new workers, to investing in your local community, to volunteering or babysitting a friend’s children so they get that needed respite to stay strong for their children. It is about remembering our parents and our grandparents as we create a strong world for all of us to live.
Let us all visit our Christmas past, reflect on our present and how other people are living. Let us then think about the future, not for us, but hose generations that will follow. Let us remember what we do now will change the future. It will be our actions or inactions that will determine what that future will be like.
So let this holiday be a time we spend and cherish our families, our friends, and our communities. Let us work together to make 2017 the time we focus on families, children and our youth. Let’s make putting an end to poverty our top priority by creating jobs that give everyone the chance to build strong, healthy families and children.
Happy new year!