My first time seeing charity in action was the winter of 1957, while having a hot chocolate and Danish pastry with my mother in a coffee shop.
Seeing a shabbily dressed man drinking coffee at the lunch counter, she called over the waitress, passed her a handful of change, and said, “Here, give that old Johnny a sandwich and a bowl of soup.”
“Old Johnny” was a term for a vet; one of the many men broken from time fighting in the Second World War. Today we say “disabled.”
At that time in Canada we also saw many Hungarian refugees escaping an invasion of their homeland by the Soviet Union. I thought these people came from a country called “Hungry,” hence their immigration to Canada.
I learned early in life that Canada was a sanctuary for people fleeing war, a safe patchwork quilt of nations united in peace.
So it came as no surprise when my mother said for her 90th birthday, “No gifts please, let’s all donate money to a Ukrainian refugee fund.”
It was an appropriate gesture for a woman who spent the war waiting for her father, Sergeant Frank Proctor, to return home after liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation.
This continuing narrative of Canadians stepping up to “be the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi) has resurfaced in the group known as Save Ukraine – Sarnia and Lambton County.
A young Finnish woman armed and fighting from the front lines in Ukraine said, “If you’re not doing something to support Ukraine, you’re complicit with the Russian invasion.” Powerful words from a brave soldier, but true.
A Jewish teenager, Anne Frank, wrote in her diary: “No one ever became poor by giving.” My grandfather, Frank Proctor, said to his wife: “I’m going to Europe to stop a bad man from killing the Jewish people,” and left her and five children for five years to serve in the Canadian Medical Corp. My father’s brother died when his Corvette was sunk in the North Atlantic while escorting a convoy of grain ships bound for England.
In those days it was called “the war effort.”
Today we have an opportunity, a challenge, and an obligation in a new war effort, to punch Putin the face, to sink a battleship, give a middle finger to Russia’s invasion of a free and democratic country, and to protest the rape and murder of innocent civilians by supporting the Save Ukraine task force.
As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
For more, and to help, see the 1,900-member Save Ukraine – Sarnia and Lambton County, on Facebook.
Stephen Bright is a Sarnia artist who supports a number of charities through the donation of his art.