Heart to heart
[b]I refuse to believe that anyone dislikes December. It’s impossible, being a month of miracles and festivities. The winter solstice raises our spirits, as we look ahead to longer days and the approaching spring. New Year and Christmas are a time of joy and sharing and, of course, charity[/b]Charity works occur all through the year but our desire to help others seems to grow stronger in December, when we are inspired to embrace our fellow man. In the past, state run organisations set the pace, supported by financially independent and large companies. Now, ordinary citizens are more often involved; regardless of income, everyone can give their time. The philosophy of charity dates back to the earliest days and remains just as pertinent today.
Charity works occur all through the year but our desire to help others seems to grow stronger in December, when we are inspired to embrace our fellow man. In the past, state run organisations set the pace, supported by financially independent and large companies. Now, ordinary citizens are more often involved; regardless of income, everyone can give their time. The philosophy of charity dates back to the earliest days and remains just as pertinent today.
It’s hard to say how many charity events are organised countrywide at this time of year but the largest is held under the aegis of the Belarusian President; Our Children unites the country’s public organisations. Heart to Heart involves international funds and Kind Hearts for Children is supervised by young volunteers. Meanwhile, smaller initiatives abound in towns and villages with the number growing every year.
Giving our time and resources to help others plants seeds of kindness for the future. Those in need will always be with us: children without guardians and those who are unwell, alongside large families.
Alla Smolyak chairs the Gomel regional branch of the Red Cross Society and is supervising various charity events. She agrees that more are registered at this time of year. She adds that the number of those wishing to help is also rising. In 2011, the New Year ‘Fir Tree Wishes’ were organised for children not only in Gomel but across district centres; even large stores had their own fir trees. Children tied notes for Father Frost to the branches and gift donations were made for pupils of orphanages.
“Are people kinder these days? What inspires them?” I ask Alla. She replies, “I think people have become more sensitive and responsive. In sharing with others, our soul grows lighter. As everyone knows, the more you give, the more you receive. I think you’d agree that our world needs more joy and light.”
In an attempt to pursue more such ‘spiritual’ facts, I visit the Gomel State Professional-Technical College of Arts and Crafts. Their New Year preparations begin in early November, explains College Director Yelena Alexeenko. She’s convinced that youngsters should be nurtured in a culture of charitable works, encouraging them to make presents with their own hands and give mini-performances for children. Ms. Alekseenko believes that social responsibility is vital; if sympathy for others is promoted from an early age, we create a better society, as well as benefitting particularly vulnerable groups.
Gomel’s Frantsisk Skorina State University’s Psychology Department emphasises that unselfish acts are proven to raise our spirits. “In recent years, much research has been conducted on this theme, showing that we tend to successfully overcome our own problems once we’ve undertaken charitable work. Psychologists often advise their patients to start helping others when they face difficulties of their own, since mutual benefits are the result, bringing healing joy to those who give and those who receive.
It’s best to act from the heart in such matters rather than spend too much time thinking. One elderly lady I know goes out to her courtyard at 5am every morning, while most of us are asleep, to feed the pigeons. She’s been doing so for several years and the birds are accustomed to their ‘breakfast’. She can’t act otherwise now, finding it impossible to sleep longer or succumb to illness. The act has become a necessity of her soul.
I also know an elderly man who transfers half of his pension to the Peace Foundation, as his father died during the Great Patriotic War. He’s convinced that if we all did the same, peace would reign. In the past, I’ve tried to change his mind with no success. He simply looks at me with an air of superiority — as if to say: you’ll see as you grow older. I wouldn’t disagree now, as I understand that even a thought can violate the balance in our delicate world.
Not long ago, I read an article about schoolchildren raising funds to send their class mate for an operation. They were happy to use the money set aside for their school leaving party but needed more, so were requesting help. I was impressed by these modern children, whom we sometimes reproach for their selfishness, apathy and love of the virtual world... In fact, they were behaving in a kindly manner, mindful of another’s wellbeing.
There are so many ways of being charitable, from making a bird feeder to helping someone cross the road or dismount from a bus. Each little drop of kindness in the savings box of humanity adds up, creating a veritable ocean.
By Violetta Dralyuk