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Finding the 'good' in the season

When you're dealing with a four-year-old, getting to the heart of a morality lesson isn't always easy. We recently spent a rainy Sunday afternoon watching The Muppet Christmas Carol.

When you're dealing with a four-year-old, getting to the heart of a morality lesson isn't always easy.

We recently spent a rainy Sunday afternoon watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Afterwards, we talked about what had happened, and what the grumpy Mr. Scrooge had learned along the way.

My son, ever the observant tyke, said, "He learned it's good to be good, you should buy a big turkey for your friend. And there's three ghosts - Mama, I don't want the ghosts to come to our house."

Ghosts (and big turkeys) aside, he got it mostly right: it's good to be good.

Being "good" is the drop of water in the puddle, the start of the ripple of positive things.

When we write about organizations like the Burnaby Christmas Bureau (see page 13), we use words like "building community" and "offering support" and "giving a hand up" and "creating positive empowering experiences."

None of those really gets at the "good" that's created because it's nearly impossible to put those emotions into words: it's the feeling a child has when, despite the belief that Santa is surely going to pass by once again, there's a present waiting for them; it's the encouragement a family, facing unexpected struggles, gets from knowing that they belong to a neighbourhood that cares for its members; it's the realization, for an immigrant, that here truly is a place where no one will be left behind; it's being given the chance to believe that better days are ahead.

But there's another side to my son's evaluation that it's "good to be good" - the impact that altruistic behaviour has on the person doing the giving.

Let's consider another "Ebenezer" - Bill Murray's cold-hearted TV executive in the 1988 spin on the Dickens classic, Scrooged: "You have to do something, you have to take a chance, you do have to get involved. There are people that are having trouble making their miracle happen. - I get it now! If you give, then it can happen. - Then the miracle can happen to you.

- You've just got to want that feeling. And if you like it and you want it you'll get greedy for it - you'll want it every day of your life."

He was trying to say, in his classic crazyBillMurray-over-the-top way, that helping just plain feels good.

I think people sometimes feel a bit guilty for that feel-good buzz that comes from helping out, like they should lend a hand or make a charitable donation for the simple fact that it's the right thing to do.

And it is certainly the right thing to do - but it's all right to enjoy it, too. In fact, I highly recommend it.

Giving helps provide a framework for our own lives, a way to recognize the ways in which we have been blessed; it reminds us of our place in the interconnected web of our community and helps keep a sense of reality over what we have and don't have.

It's easy to look around at a friend's bigger house or fancier car and feel that nudge of jealousy and forget all that we have ourselves. I'm as guilty of that as anyone.

But when you take that moment to pick up an extra toy and drop it off at the bureau, or call up and make a donation, it reminds you that what you already have is more than enough - enough, in fact, to allow you to share it.

In helping an organization like the Burnaby Christmas Bureau, we breed gratitude in ourselves and hope for others.

That's good for everyone, and like my son said, "it's good to be good."

To learn more about the Burnaby Christmas Bureau, see our stories on page 13, and see www.burnabynow. com for more.

Christina Myers is a reporter with the Burnaby NOW newspaper covering family, parenting, children and health. She has two children, aged four and 18 months. Follow her at www. or email cmyers@burnaby