I’ve met many people who are reluctant to travel to Africa, largely because the news media feature just outbreaks of violence and other ongoing issues in some of the countries.
But that’s not all of what Africa is, so I was very pleased to read today in the Charter for Compassion newsletter that Botswana has become the first country as a whole to join the Charter.
Earlier this month, the chair of Botswana’s National Vision Council signed the Botho Declaration, which outlines the ‘seven Pillars’ of the country’s strategy to continue to create a “competitive, winning and prosperous nation”.
The Pillars of the strategy would serve any country in the world well –
Having been to Botswana twice and having met/worked with many of its lovely people, I’m not surprised at all that the country is the first in the world to have dedicated itself to the cause of global compassion, but I think it’s highly ironic that a nation on a continent that many people fear to visit has joined the Charter before countries in North America or Europe.
The Charter for Compassion organization supports the ideal of having all nations follow the Golden Rule, something I support personally and have posted about on this blog. What a great vision to spread this concept around the globe!
You can read much more about the Charter on its website, and you can sign up yourself as an individual, or a group/organization that you belong to if you also believe that we can create a compassionate world. The website also features numerous resources for exploring.
At this time of year, when it’s important for those of us who have much to be compassionate to those who don’t, I hope this website will inspire you to think of ways to bring more compassion to your own life. Be kind to relatives as well as strangers, don’t look away from the homeless, help animals, and don’t forget to be kind to yourself as well.
Yesterday we got word that our friend’s 21-year-old stepson was killed in a car accident. A life unfulfilled, a family destroyed in just a few moments of someone’s careless or reckless driving.
I don’t know the details about how the accident happened, but in our area there seem to be serious accidents on almost a daily basis, and watching how badly people drive I can understand why.
Today I spotted a woman in an SUV leaving the parking lot of one of our malls who ran every stop sign, and at a very busy intersection she sped through a light that had already turned red. It was frightening to watch her.
Another driver, a parent dropping their child off at school, pulled into the property right across my front bumper, even though there wasn’t another vehicle behind me for several blocks. All they had to do was wait for 5 seconds. I don’t know whether the driver was an idiot or just not paying attention – neither was a good scenario.
People, your vehicle is a 2-ton killing machine! If you’re not driving properly, what on earth makes you think your fellow drivers are?
If you’re doing any of the following things while you drive, you’re a danger on the roads:
Not even slowing down for stop signs; bottom line is that you should be stopping
Running red lights
Fixing your hair
Passing someone on the on-ramp to the highway
Changing lanes without warning or checking if there’s room for you to move over: YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY when moving into another lane!
Not signaling turns or lane changes
Not checking the speed of the traffic coming along in the lane you want to turn into
Tailgating – if I can’t see your headlights in my rearview mirror, you’re too close! This is especially bad if there’s water or snow on the roads, as your stopping time will be significantly reduced if the vehicle in front of you has to jam on the brakes or loses control
Dodging in and out of traffic
Breezing past a long line of cars and forcing your way into that lane
Moving across more than one lane of traffic at the last minute to get to your exit
Driving with your pet on your lap
Not cleaning the snow/ice off all of your windows – how are you going to see a 3-ton van that’s lost control and is heading straight for you?
Not cleaning the snow/ice off your roof – your snow is blowing off into the face of the driver behind you
Sliding: if your car is sliding on a snowy road, YOU’RE GOING TOO FAST FOR THE CONDITIONS
Paying attention to something other than the road
Driving is a cooperative activity – we all have to drive properly for it to be safe on the roads. If you decide you’re going to cheat, some day you’re going to deprive a family of one or more of its loved ones, and you’ll have to live with that for the rest of your life – if you’re still alive yourself.
The Christmas season can be challenging. Visions of dysfunctional family get-togethers, guilt-laden commercials asking for donations, neighbours who don’t know what Christmas-light overkill is, shopping mall craziness and sad songs that make me cry dance through my head.
I think anyone who gets giddy over the holiday season hasn’t yet experienced it after a deeply personal loss, or suffered through years of tense family occasions, and I envy them. For the rest of us though, there are strategies to cope.
Losing a loved one, whether human or pet, can wipe out whatever Christmas spirit you might have had. For those of you who may be scoffing at being so sad after losing a pet, get over it! Pets become an integral part of a family, and are loved and taken care of just like any other family member, so losing a pet is devastating.
For our first Christmas without our male dog, who’d been with us since he was a puppy, I couldn’t stomach anything glittery in the house – it seemed like too much of a celebratory atmosphere, and we certainly weren’t celebrating anything that year. We also dispensed with a standard Christmas tree; I just put a few white branches in a pot and a minimal amount of ornaments. Keeping everything low-key helped, and we got through it. The following year we lost our female dog as well, but in recent years we’ve been able to return to a fairly normal Christmas. It’s never been quite the same, though, and I’ve come to terms with that.
Sometimes we’re in a position to help others through a similar crisis.
One November, after many years of Christmas meals where the interpersonal tensions among some family members were thick enough to cut with a knife, if they even showed up, Mike and I decided we were tired of it.
We were on the same wavelength that year. I’d been watching a great old Hepburn and Tracy movie called Desk Set, and the scenes of Christmas merriment at Hepburn’s office really struck me – I hadn’t experienced that kind of celebration for years. When I mentioned it to Mike, he said he’d been feeling the same way, and he suggested that we do something revolutionary: hold Christmas dinner and invite everyone, regardless of who was speaking to whom. Everyone would be welcome!
I agreed, and we started planning. After some thought, we decided to have a brunch, which tends to be a more relaxed occasion than any other type of meal, in an open-house format to allow everyone with extended families a good window of time to drop in. Hot food would be out on the buffet table from noon to 4pm, and people could come and go as they needed.
We were just going to start making phone calls to everyone when the unthinkable happened – at the beginning of December one of our uncles died riding in the car with his wife. He’d had heart issues for years, but no one knew that anything was imminent. We debated what to do, and decided that we would go ahead with our meal, and that because time was short we needed to extend the invitations while we could catch everyone during the funeral weekend. It was a difficult choice to make, but it worked out – the idea seemed to be a bright spot in everyone’s mind.
We didn’t ask people to rsvp, just to come if they could, even if it would only be to share a holiday beverage. The only comment I made to Mike ahead of time was that if anyone brought trouble into the house I’d throw them out, and I meant it. This was to be a Christmas of harmony, even if only for a day.
Several days ahead of the big day I began cooking a selection of dishes I thought would sit well in warming pans for four hours, and then I kept cooking and cooking. My brother, who stayed with us on Christmas Eve and offered to help, asked me what the heck I was going, and I remember replying that I couldn’t seem to stop making food!
Christmas Day arrived bright and sunny. By 11:30am everything was on the buffet table and we waited with baited breath to see if anyone would actually show up to help us eat the huge amount of food I’d made!
We must have struck a chord with people that year, because people began to show up with smiles and much more good cheer than we expected. The warming pans worked brilliantly and I didn’t have to do anything other than relax and enjoy myself for the rest of the day.
It turned out that the buffet concept was a great idea – people who weren’t on good terms could just politely wish each other a Merry Christmas and then sit anywhere in the house (no room for big tables, so all the food was manageable on a lap plate).
Everyone was intrigued by the food and kept returning to the table to try out something else – turkey tenderloin in a cider cream gravy, cheese blintzes with cherry sauce, honey-mustard sausage bites, sour cream & onion bread are a few of the dishes I recall now.
There was a very benevolent and peaceful atmosphere that day, and we saw people who hadn’t really spoken in years having actual conversations together. Perhaps the best part was that it turned out to be a decent Christmas even for our newly-widowed aunt: she spent it with all her sisters together for the first time in quite a while, and without a formal table seating I think it wasn’t so painfully obvious that her husband wasn’t there.
No one came and went – everyone stayed for the entire afternoon and into the evening, eventually trickling out in good spirits. It felt like a Christmas miracle, and although I can’t tell you that everyone made up and lived happily ever after with each other, for that one Christmas (and a few afterward) everyone genuinely had the holiday spirit.
When you’re planning your holiday meals, remember that the spirit of Christmas is generosity – a genuine welcome for everyone. Forget putting on a grand show or trying to make everything perfect – what really means something to your guests is how welcome you make them feel. Without that, you may as well not bother.