Growing up, the kick-off to the holiday season at my house was always the Telethon of Stars that played on CTV and TQS (now called the V network or something.) The first weekend of December, the Telethon of Stars would air from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. Hosted by various TV personalities, the telethon would play movies, cutting in occasionally to show off some local talent or have the CEO of Bombardier give Randy Tieman an over-sized check. The goal: raising money for the Foundation for Research into Children’s Diseases.
I have many a fond memory of decorating the Christmas tree while watching a three-hour version of Mrs.Doubtfire with 1-800 numbers scrolling across the bottom of the screen. The movie would be interrupted every 20 minutes for a performance by a choir from some elementary school in Laval.
Oh, and the utterly depressing stories about children with cancer, can’t forget that. But I think that helped me put things in perspective at a pretty young age. So, if I didn’t get everything I wanted for Christmas, that was okay, because I had the gift of not being an eight-year-old with leukemia.
Recently, the Telethon seemed to be getting shorter. It stopped running all night and started ending earlier and earlier. Needless to say, I was appalled when they cut it short to air re-runs of Teen Mom late on a Saturday night.
Then, in 2010, for the first time since 1977, they didn’t air the Telethon at all, citing financial reasons; specifically, that it actually cost more to put the Telethon together than it actually brought in from its viewers. Now, I’m not math whiz, but if everyone in the Montreal area donated one dollar, in addition to the corporate donations and various fund raising activities taken up by local institutions, the Telethon could have easily surpassed its relatively modest goal of $4 million.
That’s it, one dollar from everyone. One dollar. Isn’t this supposed to be the spirit of giving?
We have no problems getting together as a collective to give movie executives millions when we swarm the theaters to see the Hobbit. But we can’t take a fraction of the money we shell out to watch furry-footed Bilbo run around for two and a half hours to help children. Children with cancer.
Why can’t people give without expecting anything in return? Does there always have to be something in return? No one thinks about it, but how twisted is it that a fundraiser bake sale even has to exist? Has this ever been a real conversation?
“Excuse me sir, would you like to make a charitable contribution to Dans La Rue?”
“What’s in it for me?”
“The satisfaction of knowing that your contribution will help to feed and clothe one of Montreal’s many homeless youth?”
“I dunno, I’m already pretty self-satisfied. What else you got?”
Don’t look to the social “elite” for any kind of consolation either. As the NHL lockout drags on, players are also opting not to attend the various charity events that the team organizations put on in various cities.
This started with the charity golf game back in September which usually kicks off the NHL season. As the lock-out was only beginning at this stage, none of the players showed up. Usually around the holiday season, the Canadiens pay a visit to Montreal area children’s hospitals, spending time and signing autographs for sick kids. This year, not a single one showed up to the team organized event, unable to put aside a petty spat and unwilling to sacrifice whatever small fraction of their million plus dollar salaries they may have to surrender.
Fortunately, a small handful of players organized their own visit, but only three current team members attended. I won’t fault the players in Europe for not attending; they have contractual obligations to other teams. But there are still a sizable amount of players not signed to a European club that apparently couldn’t squeeze a day or two into their “busy” schedules to visit the community that pays their salaries. Apparently doing nothing for six months is more time consuming than it sounds.
And of course, no one said anything about their absence. No one scolded them. No one thought it was a shame that they couldn’t make time for children, children with cancer (how many times do I have to say that?). And when the NHL returns, the players will be welcomed back with more enthusiasm than any doctor, police officer, teacher, soldier or fire fighter could ever hope for.
The worst of it is, I’m identifying this as a problem, but I’m not much better. I donate on occasion but not with any kind of regularity. I often walk by Salvation Army collection baskets with a five dollar bill safely tucked into my pocket to spend on something stupid that I don’t really need. And when the NHL returns, I’ll be right there with everyone else, overcome with joy, tearfully cheering on the team.
So if we don’t make it to the end of this year, if we’re swallowed by a supernova or invaded/enslaved by aliens then maybe it’s for the better. What did we do to deserve this place anyway? What did we do to prove we’re worthy? We either don’t have the mutual respect for the lives we share this Earth with, like the guy who wouldn’t donate until he got a cookie, or we’re a bunch of preachy hypocrites, like me.