Kinder and Gentler

giving thanks written in lower case red script across a canvas

It was tempting to write a scathing column about the coming end of Our London and other newspapers. As you have likely heard, Torstar and Postmedia swapped dozens of papers to shut them down. Hundreds of people are losing their jobs. Some small towns are losing their only source of local news. The move is meant to reduce competition for shrinking ad dollars. Our London will continue operating until early January.

The truth is, I did write a column about it and I might submit it before the end comes. But after I purged my dark soul on the subject, I found myself wanting to write something positive. And that’s what I did, along with a confession about Christmas gifts past, that you might find amusing.

Why White Undies Just Won’t Do Anymore

Every Christmas, my former mother-in-law gave me underwear. A three-pack of giant, white granny-panties, five sizes too big for me. I’d brace myself for the embarrassment, emit a weak thank-you, and donate the unopened pack to Goodwill. My feeble attempts to suggest another size or style went unheeded. The one time I tried to sneak away without opening her gift, she stopped me and made me do it. She didn’t hate me, really. I suspect she got them for free from the strangest in-store bonus Sears ever offered.

We all appreciate gifts with meaning. Presents that show that the giver pays attention to the recipient and what they like. We are surrounded by need at this time of year and many of us feel obligated to help where we can. What better way to show the spirit of the season than to improve someone’s life and give away the credit. Here are some gift ideas for those who already have enough stuff.

Order a mouth-watering meal for delivery to someone, perhaps anonymously, via The Village Table. It’s a new social enterprise program from Meals on Wheels London. While your recipient enjoys a wonderful dinner, part of the proceeds will provide a healthy meal for a senior or someone with a disability. It’s a win-win. Choose a selection from a menu featuring items made by some of London’s best food creators.

The United Way London and Middlesex once again offers its Feel Good Giving gift guide to bring food, programs, camp experiences and more to those who need it. Twenty-five dollars buys 12 dinners for hungry children. Fifty bucks puts a senior who can’t afford it into a fitness program for three months. It’s a great bargain that does a lot of good.

A few years ago, my husband and I gave each other the gift of giving via Kiva. It’s an organization that offers no interest, no-fee loans to families and entrepreneurs in Third World countries. Perhaps someone you love would like to invest in a noodle business in Bolivia or a poultry farm in Kenya. We’ve been loaning the same money over and over as our loans get paid back. More than a million loans have been funded through Kiva, $25 at a time.

There are many other endeavours that may appeal from Plan Canada, World Vision, and others closer to home. Mission Services’ Scan Away Hunger program continues at Metro, Giant Tiger and other stores through the rest of this month. The Salvation Army’s kettle drive is on, and they need kettle volunteers. Visit

Philanthropists Frank and Kathy Longo recently shared an inspiring story about the early days of struggling to build their restaurant supply business. Frank had sleepless nights over meeting their financial obligations. Kathy would slip donation cheques in among the payables for his signature, hoping he wouldn’t notice. If he did, she’d say, Frank, no matter the current circumstances, we still need to give. There are always people who are worse off. Be grateful for what you have, and share it.

Giving a gift that gives twice is a wonderful feeling, especially if the alternative is giant, white underpants.

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