Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day and St. Lucia Day are some of the religious and cultural celebrations held this month. The spirit of family, community and giving during this time is exciting, especially in our multicultural country.
We’re so fortunate to live a lifestyle of opportunities, but often Canadians take our privileges for granted. People from all over the world go to great lengths to immigrate to Canada because our quality of life is so high. Of course, there are Canadian residents who are disadvantaged and require assistance, and the rest of us have an obligation to help people in need. That’s where the holiday season comes in. This is the most popular time of the year to give back to our communities through food and toy drives, contributions to charities and non-profit organizations.
You all know people in your neighbourhoods who give back in quiet ways — volunteers who read to kindergarten children or visit residents in nursing homes. These are vital contributions.
In Canada, everyone counts. Over the decades, our ethnic make-up has diversified, and we’ve adopted a respect for the wide variety of religions and cultural traditions. This makes Canada unique — we’ve created a patchwork quilt of cultures, not a giant melting pot.
In 2003, we decided to support the greater community in a special way. The previous year, we lost a partner and a dear friend when Mike Salem died of sudden cardiac arrest. In his memory, we established The Mikey Network to promote heart-healthy living and place public-access defibrillators called MIKEYS in high-risk public venues. In Mike’s name, we offer the gift of a second chance at life all year long, not just during the holiday season.
In December, life usually slows down enough to enable us to think about our privileged lives and to help those less fortunate. I believe the holiday season is a model of how Canadians should behave all year long.
Hugh Heron is principal and partner in the Heron Group of Companies, president of Heathwood Homes and a member of the board of directors of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as well as a past president of the Toronto Home Builders’ Association and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.