What does Advent mean to you?
Maybe it's a church season that starts this Sunday. Maybe it's a chocolate-filled calendar that lasts from December 1st to 25th. Maybe it's candles and carols and cookies. Maybe it's family-centred activities. Maybe it's none of these things.
I hope that, whatever you believe, you will indulge me in acknowledging that the word "advent" actually means "a coming into place, view, or being; arrival" not "cheap chocolate". Can we just agree on that much? Okay, good.
Now, you all likely know I'm a Christian, but I'm not going to preach at you. What I believe first and foremost is that everyone has the right to believe what he or she wants without any interference from me (except when it comes to the correct meanings of English words). But I want to point your attention here and then remind you about a project I did last year that I really enjoyed, and intend to do again this year. The link is Christian-centred but the project is completely non-religious and inclusive, I promise!
The facts: worldwide, lack of clean water kills more people every day than anything else. In third world countries, it’s not unusual for children and infants to die from diseases caused by drinking unclean water. But here’s another fact: the estimated cost to make clean water available to everyone, forever, is $13 billion. That may seem like a lot, until you consider the most shocking fact of all: that Canadians spend over $35 billion every year on Christmas.
The idea: spend less money on Christmas presents that your first-world friends and family don't really need. Instead, give them something that really matters: your self, your time, your attention, your love. Give relationally: something that will contribute to or support your relationship with that person. Talk, eat, sled, bike, craft, cook, read, play, create, sing, dance, build, draw, laugh, hike, write, together. You might just start a whole new Christmas tradition!
The project: take that money you saved and give it to charity. I chose clean water, because of the facts above, but you've probably got a charity that's close to your heart. Give it to them.
But because just telling you to give some money to charity isn't much of a project, nor is it fun or interesting, here's the good part.
Print out the following, in whatever format works for you. (See here for what I did last year.)
Dec 1 - 10¢ for every hot water tap in your home
Dec 2 - 75¢ for every vehicle your family owns
Dec 3 - 5¢ for every pair of jeans you own
Dec 4 - 5¢ for every bed in your house
Dec 5 - 25¢ if you get a daily newspaper
Dec 6 - 3¢ for every cosmetic item you own
Dec 7 - 3¢ for every pair of footwear
Dec 8 - 5¢ for every meal with meat this week
Dec 9 - 15¢ if you have pots and pans
Dec 10 - 20¢ for every tv you own
Dec 11 - 10¢ for every flush toilet in your home
Dec 12 - 5¢ for every blanket you own
Dec 13 - 15¢ if you have dishes for food
Dec 14 - 3¢ for every light switch in your home
Dec 15 - 5¢ for every window in your home
Dec 16 - 5¢ for each magazine subscription
Dec 17 - 20¢ for every bathtub or shower
Dec 18 - 10¢ for every outside door you have
Dec 19 - 25¢ if you have more than 25 CDs/ DVDs
Dec 20 - 10¢ for every non-tap-water drink this week
Dec 21 - 25¢ if you have a snow blower or lawn mower
Dec 22 - 3¢ for every hair care product
Dec 23 - 15¢ for every bedroom in your house
Dec 24 - 2¢ for every soap bar or dispenser
Dec 25 - 15¢ for every present you received
Then collect that money every day and reflect on how blessed you are in comparison to the two-thirds of the world who dream of the luxuries we take for granted.
Whatever your beliefs, I'd be stunned if you didn't learn something interesting through this exercise. And if you do take part, I hope you'll share your experience with me. Happy Advent!