The Power of 12

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Volunteers swing into action and put together the first of several thousand Christmas Hampers

Volunteers swing into action and put together the first of several thousand Christmas Hampers

Last Friday, volunteers in north Waterloo were busy.  They came together, many of them only seeing each other at this time of year, and got to business assembling boxes of food for people they will never meet.  Christmas Hampers officially got into gear.

Inspired by these volunteers and the hundreds who will follow them each day until the 25th, House of Friendship invites YOU to get involved in our community to the power of 12.

Welcome to 12 Days.

The idea is simple: do something, anything, in the next twelve days to help someone else.  These can be 12 big things, 12 little things or even just one thing. We`re not asking you to join in on what House of Friendship is doing (although you are very welcome to) we simply want to share the enthusiasm and drive that we see around us and encourage others to make a positive change.

This year, since it is a traditional time of gift giving, we are organizing our own efforts around 12 different “gifts”:  the gift of Justice and Equality, Food, Home, Community, Health, Joy, Knowledge, Friendship, Warmth, Diversity, Hope, and finally, Celebrating the Good!

Each day we will share some tips, suggestions, stories and inspiration that you can use to share that gift with our community.

Follow #12daysforgood on twitter, on Facebook and come back here for daily updates.

Day 1: How do you wrap the Gift of Justice?

In my University days, I found myself sitting with some co-workers for lunch, enjoying the nice summer weather.  We were doing door-to-door sales at the time and the spirit of the work place was making money and self reliance.  You were responsible for your success or failure.  Every day, before hitting the streets, it was drilled into us: keep pushing, stay confident, work hard and you will do it.

As we dug into our lunches, the conversation turned to a homeless man we had interacted with earlier before starting work. One of my co-workers observed “If I was on the street, I would never stop, I would clean myself up, get a job and get off the street in a few days.”

If only life was that simple.

“The man who moved a mountain was the one who began carrying away small stones.”

Life is not an easy thing, and while some people “make it” however you choose to define that – a loving family, a good car, a big house, many friends, respect, money – take your pick – others do not.

The reason for this is all around us.  Poor choices, difficult childhoods, indifferent families or societies or authorities, lack of opportunities, absent or bad role models… the list goes on. While many people may be able to overcome one or all of these barriers, it is not something that they are often able to do alone.

Toxic family environments, poverty, crime, physical illness, hunger and mental illness are big issues.  Taken together they present a mountain of trouble that we as a society must take apart, stone by stone.

Where to start?

Today, December 10, is Human Rights Day.  Today is an opportunity, to celebrate human rights, highlight a specific issue, and advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone everywhere. You are probably thinking that since this is Canada, the whole Human Rights situation is pretty much under control for us.  Why read on?

It is true that we all enjoy many fundamental rights.  We have freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for example.  My daughter can go to school and grow up to be the person she wants to be without having to fear that the government may arbitrarily decide to lock her away in prison, decide she is guilty of a crime without trial, kick her off her property, or persecute her for the things she wants to think or say.  Other people in the world cannot say that about their own children, or even themselves.

But, when she grows up, what if my daughter loses her job?  Gets ill?  Loses her home?  Doesn’t have a family anymore, or friends she can turn to?  What if she gets lost on the mountain of trouble that we don’t like to talk about as a society, or quietly wish was located across the border or across the ocean?  The fact remains, there are many people in our city, region and country who are unable to realize the fundamental human needs most of us enjoy and take for granted.

It’s easy to look at the person sitting on the curb asking you for spare change, and not really see beyond the empty coffee cup at their feet or the out stretched hat, but that’s a person, and that person could be your child, your parent, your neighbor  or your sibling.  Maybe if you were standing in their shoes you would be able to do what my coworker was so confident they could do all those years ago, but maybe you would need a hand, and a person beside you to walk with you through your time of trouble. They could help you struggle through when your basic human rights – the right to food and housing for example – are just outside of reach and are definitely not guaranteed to you.

At the House of Friendship, and any other nonprofit or charitable group, volunteers are the ones that roll up their sleeves, carry the weight, stub their toes, suffer upsets and work tirelessly and (and often joyfully) to help pick away at the edges of the problems others face in our own backyard.  They are the the people who will walk with others through troubled times and help them get the essential services they need to survive and turn their lives around.  Are they the only ones who can do it?  Government at all levels, business, individuals all have a role to play as well, but for the time being, volunteers do a lot of the heavy lifting.  They are a part of the solution, waiting for the other people who could stand up and help carry the burden realize their is more work to do.

The 12 step program to community improvement and involvement?

Today’s gift connects in important ways to all the following days that we will write and talk about.  The first step to Justice and Equality is respect and understanding what Human Rights are about.  There is a super serious document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but a more approachable breakdown of what they are and mean can be found by clicking here.  What are they basically?  What you would expect for yourself, what you would want your family and children and grandchildren right on down the line:  peace, security, food, shelter, freedom and opportunities to build a better life.

Human Rights: volunteer your voice

The most important thing that you can do is use your voice.  When you’re in the middle of a conversation about someone who isn’t in the best of circumstances, or if you find yourself face to face with that person, remember that they are a human being.  Someone like yourself, your child or your parents.  Their needs may be many, their problems may seem huge, but the first small step you can take is to look beyond stereotypes and recognize that all of us are people, and that it is a grave injustice when anyone is hungry, doesn’t have a roof over their head and there is nothing that can justify keeping someone in those conditions, even for a day.

If you use your voice to speak up, to advocate for a little respect and to challenge an easy answer to a big problem, you are picking up a little stone, and helping to move a mountain.

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4 Responses to “The Power of 12”

  1. Michael Hackbusch Says:

    Well said and thought out. Moving the mountain seems ominous but one stone at a time and with more people picking up a stone, imagine what we can do. Hunger/homelessness/poverty are mountainous prospects but are able to be moved, even eliminated, one stone at a time.
    Let’s all do our part these 12 days and keep doing it these 12 months!

  2. juanitametzger Says:

    When a whole community begins moving the stones, in the same direction, with the same purpose…. we change the world.

  3. The Gift of Hope on Day 11 « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] program has donated gifts for all the current residents for the last few years. Understanding and justice are also a good first step.  You can begin to understand the complexity of addiction and the […]

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