A Money Coach in Canada

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Every flippin’ corner in my dtes Vancouver hood I’d be asked, “spare some change?” or worse, told some drawn-out bs story first before being asked.

It’s a dilemma for anyone with half a heart (if you simply don’t give a damn when the destitute on the street corners ask you for your change, you need to puzzle for a while then grow your heart two more sizes).

“They have soup kitchens and social assistance programs, and giving them change is just going to enable their dependency and probably will go straight to drugs”. That’s what I said to my softer-hearted cousin when she visited.

But over time I learned that it wasn’t that straightforward. Sometimes my change really did go to a slice of pizza that may have been the only protein or hot food they’d get that day. Sometimes the soup kitchens weren’t open (like Sunday mornings, because all the faith-based places weren’t open!). Sometimes the access to social assistance was so freaking complicated what little energy the individual could muster was sucked dry during the first (crappy pay phone) call to the 1-800#.

So then. I started giving out change if I had it, and dignify the exchange (somewhat) by leaving it entirely to the individual to use as they saw fit. Sorta like the rest of us do.

But I think I just heard a better answer.

What we can say with confidence is that we are to give something to everyone who asks – dignity, attention, time, a listening ear. Sometimes we may give money, sometimes not.

Sounds like a pretty Christ-massy sort of response to “can you spare some change” to me.

I’ll start, minimally, by not being pouty when some of Yellowknife’s folks (often inebriated to avoid hells I don’t know about) crowd in the local post office entrance or bank machine areas.

Waiting for the Return of Light

I used to call them my demon nights. Sleep patterns and the hours between 3 – 4:30 am can really mess with our heads. Our insecurities and vulnerabilities are magnified and it’s hard to find our inner core. I frequently experienced insomnia at this hour and went through a silent hell. I felt utterly alone in the universe. Anguish.

I don’t experience those torments anymore, Thank God. Somewhere between then and now I have, over the years, become at ease in my own skin. Between long-lasting and robust friendships, discovering my own unique strengths I bring to the world, and a particular romance which, though it didn’t end in marriage (a sadness I will always carry with me) nevertheless dropped tender love into my heart, between all these, I’ve become (generally) at ease and secure. Also rooting myself into a faith and belief in an all-loving and tender and compassionate God has been foundational.

There’s a proverb that says: Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.

So on this Christmas Day, I encourage us all to hold lightly to the gifts we received (or maybe didn’t) – delight in them, yes. But mostly hold them lightly because mostly what we all need – by definition of being human – is love and belonging. What love and belonging we each have in our lives, be it little glimpses or in spades, let’s soak it up. If we need more, let’s set our intentions to build and deepen our community. If we have some to spare, let’s open our hearts more widely to others.

And for those who are inclined toward religion, let’s open our hearts all the more to the God of Love, and spill that love as indiscriminately wide and far as possible — Peace, on earth, good will to all.

Hang on to your hats, folks. We’re about to enter a crazy time of the year.

Your shopping is probably mostly done (right? RIGHT??) but there’s plenty of in-the-moment wallet busters in store (sic) for the next 10 days. Here are 5 last minute tips to spend smart between now and New Years.

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1. Run, don’t walk, run to your nearest dollar store to pick up gift cards, wrapping paper and bows. You don’t want to spend a fortune on this at the Brand Name store on Christmas Eve! If you have 90 minutes of time, an even better idea: make your own bows from leftover wrapping paper like Karen does.






Happy New Year!
2. New Years Eve. Going out? Leave your keys and your plastic at home. Decide how much you’re doing to spend and use cash. Save yourself from yourself! No oops-overspending hangovers this January 1st on my watch! 😉












3. Create your “standard-polite-decline” in advance to excuse yourself from potentially pricey on-the-spot invites you receive (we’re going out for lunch, join us!). Your line can be whatever works for you. Ideas: a gracious and classic, “Thanks so much but I have other plans” or “another time”; if suitable, ask if you can check your calendar first; have a standby excuse “I need to take the dogs for their walk”.






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4. Travelling? Call your cel phone service provider today to be clear about extra charges. Avoid nasty surprises when you get your January bill! I usually purchase about $10 from Bell so I can make extra calls while in Vancouver.












5. Don’t apologize for not spending. I’m not saying cheap-out. But controlling your spending over the next 10 days should be a badge of honour. Settle that within yourself, and then let your actions and your words flow from that place.

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For a time as a kid, our family had barely middle class income. Oh, we never went without shoes or anything, but things were tight.

During those difficult few years, there were a sprinkling of glorious moments when something so wonderful happened it felt like a miracle. One occurred when I was in grade 2. I’d just learned how to tell time and I wanted a watch for Christmas. Desperately. But I didn’t expect one, that’s for sure.

On Christmas Eve (we followed the northern European tradition of opening presents Christmas Eve), there was a special box for me. It was an unforgettable moment, unwrapping that gift. Not only did that box contain a watch, but it had six different coloured straps which could be interchanged, and three different casings which could be interchanged. The permutations and combinations were infinite to my 7 year old mind. Not only did I receive a beautiful watch, I received an infinite number of watches!

And I wore a new one every week for that year, and I bet the year after that, and the year after that.

Anyway, that’s one of my most magical, glorious moments of Christmas that I can recall.

How ’bout you? Did you have any particularly thrilling gift-moments that you can recall?

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Photo Credit: mysza

One of my girlfriends dreads gift shopping events – birthdays, weddings, and above all else, Christmas. She feels like whatever she purchases just won’t cut it with the recipient. Similarly, a former client of mine deliberately traveled out of town on any occasions involving gifts, holding the firm view that she’d rather choose what she wanted for herself rather than accept whatever someone chose. Fair enough. (No, they weren’t sisters!).

Me? I enjoy the process of selecting gifts, for the most part. Most of the time, I’m reasonably confident that the recipient will enjoy what I’ve purchased, at least enough to have made the effort. And usually once per season, I find That Perfect Gift which goes over particularly well. For instance, when cds were just coming out (yes, I’m That Old), I found a christmas album (The Hollywood Bowl Christmas Album, recorded in 1957) which had been a christmas staple in our family, but the vinyl version had long since been all scratched up. It wasn’t spendy, but it was quite a hit. And usually once per season something I was less confident about ends up being a surprise hit. Perhaps I have particularly polite friends and family, but on the whole, selecting gifts is pleasurable.

I’m curious: do you enjoy selecting gifts, or hate it? Do you have any awesome “find” stories to share? Or any disasters?