I belong to the early morning crowd. The group that gets up at 5 and is fully functioning by 6:45. The group that is still mostly groggy while on public transit. I used to hate the silence of this group, feel alienated that everyone was in their own world in these early mornings.
Now I understand it. Now I love it. Early mornings are my best thought time. And today my thoughts are caught between the now and the eternal.
Shops began decorating for the Christmas season before Thanksgiving and now are in their full array of colors and products, golds, greens, and reds – the sparkles interrupted only by yellow “On Sale” tags. The stuff beckons. It’s so pretty. It’s got glitter and glam. It says “Buy me, you need me.” The faceless mannequins in the window dare me to refuse, beckon me with their androgynous sophistication decked in sweaters, tights, scarves, and jewelry.
But beyond the mannequins is a lighted star, placed high above the street by the city of Boston. It’s the promise of Christmas reminding me of a birth, of men who were searching for a Saviour, of an event that changed our calendar forever.
I’m struck once again by the constant battle of the now and the eternal. Beyond every mannequin is a star, promising so much more. But the mannequin is on eye level. And to see the star I have to look up.
Today, following the black of Friday and the cyber of Monday, is designated #givingTuesday. A nation needing to ease its conscience? Perhaps. But important none the less. It’s the star beyond the mannequin. The reminder that there is more to the season than the material, more to life then what we see now.
I know that you as readers have priorities of where you give and how you give. I still want to talk about three areas that are dear to my heart – women’s health, refugees, and moms and babies. The first is women’s health and the problem of fistula. I’ve talked before about this problem, about how a surgery costing $450 gives hope and a new life. Hope for Our Sisters is tireless in their ongoing work to bring attention to this problem. Brooke Sulahian – the president of this non-profit organization, has a vision and mission to bring hope to women with fistula. Your donation will not be lost in a pot of money or go to a CEO whose salary is more than many will make in a lifetime of working. Your money will go towards providing the surgery needed to restore health for the woman with fistula. The link below will take you to the website where you can easily make a donation online. Alternately they accept checks.
The second area that is dear to my heart is the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. Many of you know that my husband had the opportunity to go to Gazientep, Turkey earlier this fall. It included a trip across the border into Syria and visiting a refugee camp in “No Man’s Land” between Turkey and Syria. This camp has no running water and no latrines. At last count, the population of the camp was 14,000 people, primarily women and children. There are a couple of ways you can help. The first is through making kits – hygiene, baby, education – I wrote about it here. The link to instructions for making these kits is below. There are so many ways to do this that both celebrate the season as well as move us into action. Have people over for cocoa and Christmas cookies, with a side-helping of emergency kits.
Another way to give toward the refugee crisis is through Heart for Lebanon. Heart for Lebanon was founded in 2006 as a natural response to the devastation left behind in Southern Lebanon after the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. In 2008 the organization began serving Iraqi refugees and has been involved in refugee work since that time. Through food distribution, schools, and health education they reach those displaced by wars in both Iraq and Syria.
The last place I would suggest is a maternity center in Haiti. These midwives are incredible! Every day I follow their work in Haiti. Every day I witness stories of moms being met with love and care as they go through the birth experience. Think Call the Midwife – Haiti Style. Their website says it all: Heartline’s Maternity Center exists to provide expectant mothers in Haiti with excellent maternal-healthcare. When women enter our doors they find love, support, education, medical care, relationship and respect.
Heartline is bigger than just the maternity center, but my heart is with these moms and babies so I want to highlight it today.
There are thousands of other places where your heart may be led to give – I offer the suggestions above because they are the things that grab my heart, as well as being organizations that are small with little overhead and a huge volunteer base for the work they do. The main thing to remember is this:
When we see the mannequin, that faceless, bedazzled mannequin that beckons so insistently, may our Advent prayer be to look up and beyond to the star.