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Editorial: The Gift Of Selfless Giving This Christmas

“It is because people feel they can make a difference that they do.”

At an old Bahamian home next to the Police station on Fox Hill Road, a woman they call Skully is hauling more than 360 pounds of chicken into a kitchen no bigger than Granmy’s.

It’s got a big, old four-burner gas stove, some counters and a sink. There’s not a trace of stainless steel appliance anywhere. It’s homey and that’s because it was donated by the Davis family of Fox Hill, whose folks actually lived in it and raised a family that has produced one success story after another.

On Friday, it takes Skully an hour just to unload the cases from her car and get them into Mosseff House. Then the real work begins. For the next 14 hours, she cleans chickens and begins the preparations. Saturday she is back again for a few hours. Sunday she arrives at 1am. A short while later, still in the dark of night, the chef arrives to start vast pots of peas ’n rice. Then the salad makers come and one after another, the volunteers pile in. They are the team that together will cook, plate and pack 2,000 meals in a matter of hours.

They are the volunteers of the Bahamas Feeding Network. Organised in 2013 under the patronage of His Excellency Frank Crothers, Ambassador of the Order of Malta and Rhodes, and managed by the tireless Philip Smith, who has been feeding the hungry for more than a decade, the Bahamas Feeding Network supports some 130 churches, feeding centres and soup kitchens, including homes for the aged. On Sunday afternoon, pastors, reverends and administrators pull up to the little yellow structure where all this activity is taking place, to take the plated food back to the people in their communities who depend on the hot meal and know there will be at least one day a week when they will not go to bed hungry.

This is not about fighting hunger. It is not about the plight of the poor or asking why 12 per cent of the population lives on less than $12 a day when the government collected all that money from VAT. It is not about why one candidate has a better plan to help the less fortunate. The very last thing it is about, in fact, is politics.

This is a story of what happens when people pull together to make a difference in their communities. This is about the goodness that lies within the Bahamian heart and within people everywhere.

The Bahamas Feeding Network is simply one example - of which there are many - of how it is possible to do almost anything when you take it upon yourself to find the solution. One Eleuthera Foundation did it. Faced with the prospect of a treasured area being destroyed to become part of a mega-resort inappropriate for the location, the community united. Under the direction of Shaun Ingraham, the Foundation commissioned a report, developed a shared vision, bought an old hotel that was on the site, and began working the 99-acre property. The Foundation established a vocational and technical training centre, launched a credit union, created recycling businesses. It empowered entrepreneurship. In an area plagued by 70 per cent unemployment, the One Eleuthera Foundation brought economic activity bordering on community prosperity. In eight years, they pumped $20 million into the South Eleuthera economy.

Elsewhere, volunteers, staff and kind souls at The Cancer Society of The Bahamas help save or improve the quality of lives every single day. They lend support in a hundred ways. They drive patients to appointments, hold a hand, encourage them to attend a medical lecture, participate in communal cooking or an exercise class. Sometimes it is just a matter of being there when needed.

It is because people feel they can make a difference that they do. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the case of cancer, all those hours of education and dissemination of information have produced resounding results. In the words of one infomercial, more people today survive cancer than die from it.

So, this Christmas, if you are scurrying around at the last minute, frantically trying to figure out what to give someone, consider a gift no one else can give - a bit of yourself. Your time. Your goodwill. Your wisdom. Your strength. Whatever you have that someone else can benefit from that is not material but is about volunteering a little bit or a whole lot of you. Think of Skully, hauling, cleaning and preparing chicken so others less fortunate than she will not go hungry. The smile on her face is constant. It comes from within and its warmth is a powerful testament to the reward of giving.

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