Canadians have reason to celebrate as we enter 2013. Despite a prolonged economic slump, a recent survey hints that we Canucks are more generous than our neighbours to the south. In a Harris Interactive poll conducted for World Vision, 68 per cent of Canadians said that they had given a "charitable gift" at some point in their lives. Only 61 per cent of Americans reported having done the same.
You may have seen one or two catalogues for these charitable gifts during the holiday season. They offer buyers a chance to give a gift to someone in need, in the name of someone they care about. Whether it was World Vision's own gift catalogue or one from the United Way, Doctors Without Borders or a host of other worthy charities, caring Canadians could browse through a veritable department store of giving opportunities.
What a legacy looks like
At World Vision, we've heard of Canadians being moved to tears when learning of the gift that a friend or family member has given in their names. Imagine discovering that children in an entire African community will be immunized against deadly diseases -- because of you. Or that a child soldier, abducted from his family, will be rescued and given protection and trauma counselling. Think of knowing that in the year ahead, undernourished children will have nutrient-rich eggs or milk because their parents received chickens or a goat in your name.
I've seen for myself why such gifts are so desperately needed. One of the children who moved me most in the past year was a little boy named Precious whom I met in Malawi. Although he was seven, Precious was about the size of a four-year-old. Stunting is so common in Malawi that it's hard to spot a child who is growing at a healthy rate. When I asked Precious' father how he planned to feed his family of six in the coming months, he simply said: "I'm going to ask God to give us our daily bread."
How to leave your legacy
It would be so easy to make a difference. And it struck me that there's something families can do together to start 2013 on the right foot. It's a New Year's "tithe." The concept of tithing, the setting aside of one-tenth of our earnings for a purpose other than our own use, is thousands of years old. But it's an excellent way to remind ourselves -- and our children -- that we have so many advantages here in Canada.
This January, instead of a list of resolutions that you may not keep, why not consider a New Year's legacy? Add up your holiday gift purchases, and calculate one tenth. Then use that amount to make a purchase through World Vision Gifts or another charity's catalogue. While you're at it, encourage your friends or colleagues, even your Facebook visitors, to do the same.
Then head into 2013 knowing that someone's life will be different because of you, no matter what the year brings your way. Happy New Year.