Christmas has come and gone and most people have been left with large credit card bills and for some, a bit of an empty feeling.

The way in which the western world eats up the commercialism of the holiday season is nothing short of miraculous.

Designer jeans, Rolex watches, a new this or that, it’s become so much about the money companies can make that they refer to it as the “holiday shopping season.”

It wasn’t always this way. Christmas used to have a meaning for most people, beyond sports jackets and pleated pants.

Imagine the days of our forefathers who didn’t even know what Christmas or who the guy with the thick beard was (and I don’t mean Santa). Things were much simpler back then when giving occurred year round and sharing was a common theme within our communities.

Part of the reason was survival. Another element was a genuine love for life and for one another, regardless of beliefs.

These days it seems that people take the human aspect for granted and have reverted to showing their love and appreciation for one another through gifts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily against the practice, after all I have nieces and nephews who don’t understand anything but who bought what for whom. Even then they don’t really care, as long as they get a ton of presents.

The recent tragedy in Africa and Asia really got me thinking about this practice. A lot of those people had very little and when the monstrous tsunami waves hit their shores were either left with nothing or killed.

The wrath of Mother Nature was swift and merciless.

This probably affected me more personally because I visited Thailand in October on vacation. One of my good friends lives and works not that far away from where it happened and I still haven’t heard from him.

There are not enough times in life when people stop to think about what’s going on around them, let alone 12,000 kilometres away.

These people had loved ones, lives to live, and families. Did they deserve what they got? Definitely not, but such is the way of the cruelest power on earth.

At press time, the death toll had reached 80,000. Some predictions went as far as to say that the number would reach well over 100,000 people dead.

The Canadian government has responded with a relief package worth $40 million. That, coupled with aid from other countries, is a good sign that when disaster strikes, there are still people who care.

One of the things I did personally to help was donate money to the Red Cross. Although there are many organizations helping to send supplies and personnel, I chose the Red Cross because of their excellent reputation on the international scene. I think those who can afford it should do the same; even if it’s only $5, it’s still something.

Let us hope and pray that our efforts and the efforts of others will help to save lives and reunite family and friends.

To donate, send check or money order to:

The Canadian Red Cross Society 170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300 Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2P2

Or phone or go to their website: Tel: (613) 740-1900 Fax: (613) 740-1911