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Homeless Holidays

November 21, 2012

[If you have to pick one post on my blog to read, make it this one!]

Let’s face it: the holidays are coming and they’re coming fast. In just 34 days, some of us will be galloping down the stairs to see what old Saint Nick left us under the tree this year.

To tell you the truth, I am so excited for all of the festivities. This is the first year (EVER) that I can literally push everything aside to enjoy the holidays. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily “push everything aside”, but hypothetically, I could. What’s more, this is my first Christmas home in a long time. I can enjoy all of the carolling on the streets and the holiday music in the malls; my favourite of all activities is galavanting on the streets with my gift bags and eggnog latte.

When I went shopping with my friend AZ the other day, I heard myself saying, “Oh! I want that!” and “I wish I had that!” dozens of times. I made a mental note to upload a long Christmas Wish list onto my blog and send the URL out to all of my friends. For as long as I can remember, I have always made “wish lists”.

Even though my family does not legitimately celebrate Christmas, we can never imagine a year without it. You see, we are Buddhists so we don’t go to Church and celebrate the birth of Christ on the 25th. But as I was told, our family (extended included) has celebrated Christmas for over four decades. For our family, Christmas is celebrating the end of a year; it’s about thanking friends and family and sharing the love.

Every year, since I can remember, my family of four would always put up a Christmas tree and decorate it together. Slowly as the days would pass, presents would accumulate under the tree. On the eve of the 24th of every December, everyone would gather at one of my Aunts’ house. I’m talking about forty people here. Dozens of presents would go under the white pine and all of the kids would eagerly await for the hour when they can open their gifts. A huge feast would be served, the radio would be turned on, and the adults would play Kris Kringle. After all of the games, my second favourite part of the night would come: singing! My cousin TN would always bust out his guitar and sheet music, pass it around to everyone, and there we would be, sitting in a circle, singing all of my favourite holiday tunes. Christmas has always been my favourite holiday; in my heart, it is a thousand times better than my birthday.

Oh don’t forget the building of gingerbread houses and the breaking of Christmas Crackers! When I was younger, I used to spend the weeks leading up to Christmas practicing Christmas tunes on the piano. Christmas eve was always like a mini recital for me; it was a great opportunity to have people compliment my parents for all of those piano lessons they had paid for.

Christmas has also always been so fun because of all of the thinking that has to go into each gift. I love all of the planning, scheming, and surprising. But every Christmas, there is always a pang of guilt beneath all of the carolling and shopping and yadiyadas; it’s the feeling that I shouldn’t be having so much fun because there is someone somewhere out there who doesn’t even have a fraction of what I have. It is the feeling that somewhere, there is an elderly person without a meal, a middle-ager looking for shelter, and a child who just wants a teddy bear to hold (think Curly Sue minus the Hollywood ending).

So, instead of scribbling down that Kitchen Aid Stand mixer or that iPad onto my Christmas wish list, this year, my list only has one thing on it: money.

Wait! It’s not what you think!

I had wanted to do this last year, but by then, I had already finished my Christmas shopping and it was already too late. So I pushed it to this year. I was going to keep this next part a surprise but there is no point in doing that anymore as telling my friends will ensure a better outcome. This year, I am not giving gifts nor do I want to receive gifts. (Edit: I will still accept homemade gifts!! But only if you’ve donated first….)

Actually, let me rephrase that. This year, I am giving everyone the same gift and I want everyone to give me one gift

This sounds confusing; let me just put it in plain english. This year, instead of shopping for gifts to give people, I will simply be be pooling together all of that money into something I call, “Homeless Holidays”. With that money, I intend to go grocery shopping and buy food + hot chocolate. A couple of days before Christmas, I will be going around downtown Toronto with hopefully some friends (any volunteers?) and will be handing out these things.

I think some of you will be happy to hear that your “gifts” are going towards a good cause, but the kid inside of you might be screaming, “It’s not fair! She gets a gift and all I get is the crummy ‘feel-good-feeling’!” Don’t you worry because I don’t want gifts either! Instead of getting me gifts, I am asking my friends (and my readers) to take that money and donate it to “Homeless Holidays”. I have set up a PayPal account to make it easier for everyone, especially for my friends. This way, I don’t have to go around collecting money; instead, I just need to text out a URL.

So, with the no further adieu, I present to you the “Donate” button:

Please do not be worried, it is through PayPal and is very very safe. If you are skeptical (I know I would be), then I can reassure you that there will be pictures of your money going towards a good cause! I am busting out the Polaroid people! (I just placed bids on some packs of 600 film on ebay, I hope I win.)

A few things that you might want to know:

  1. You do not need to have or sign up for a PayPal account to donate. All you have to do is enter in your credit card number, your email, and your billing address. Of course, don’t forget to enter in the amount that you are donating (in CDN dollars please)!
  2. Your information is completely confidential. To make sure the “Donate” button was working properly, I donated $1. Here is the email that PayPal sent me. Notice that I do not receive any information about your credit card. 
  3. You can get a tax receipt for your donation. I thought I would throw this in; I always hear people say that when they ask you for money. But it’s true, you can get a tax receipt! PayPal will give you the option after you click “Send money”.
  4. Paypal charges me 2.9% + $0.30 for funds between $0 – $3,000. That’s a fee of $3.20 for every hundred dollars that is donated. To me, that doesn’t sound like much.  I would be happy to absorb that myself, so know that your money is going to get to where it needs to go! (Click here for more information about the fees that PayPal charges me. NOTE: PayPal DOES NOT charge you any fees. The only amount that will be charged to you is the amount that you will donate.)

There is no fixed amount of which you need to donate; when I say one dollar counts, I really mean it! With your guys’ help, I will possibly be able to branch out to buying gloves for the homeless as well! I think it will be splendid to receive a hot meal, a hot drink, and a nice pair of gloves for Christmas, don’t you think? My goal is $200 before December 14th. I think that is incredibly reasonable so let’s try to make this happen people! Anything more than $200 will blow my mind.

Of course, this initiative won’t be able to help every homeless person out there. Heck, even if I’m lucky enough to raise $200, I don’t think this fund will be able to reach more than 40-50 people. But that’s 40-50 more people with a hot meal, a hot drink, and a nice pair of gloves for Christmas and that’s all that matters.

Please donate! (In addition to being in this post, the “donate” button can also be found in the sidebar of my blog. It will remain there until Dec. 14. Please, please, please tell all of your friends and family. I will give you guys/gals weekly updates about how much we’ve raised!)

PS. I will still gladly accept homemade gifts!! And do not worry my friends, if you include your mailing address in your PayPal donation, you will receive a personalized Tina Ta gift! Awesome!

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