I’ll Have a Blue Christmas without You
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I’ll Have a Blue Christmas without You

We’re told we should be happy and grateful this time of year, but it’s not always easy

By Dan VanKeeken, CLAC Foundation Program Manager

One of my favourite Christmas albums is Elvis Presley’s. The very first song is his famous crooning of Blue Christmas, bemoaning the loss of his girlfriend. 

I'll have a blue Christmas without you.
I'll be so blue just thinking about you.
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me.

Elvis is not alone. Many of us have lost loved ones, experienced broken relationships, struggled financially, or in other ways just don’t feel like celebrating this year. And that’s okay. 

It’s important to mourn or struggle and not to pretend we are happy just because the season says we must. But it’s also important to find things to be grateful for and to celebrate. We can do both. 

I recently lost my 96-year-old dad. Yet I have reason to celebrate my dad’s full life, his wonderful example of patience through struggle. 

He was a slave labourer in the Second World War, then spent almost four years in the jungles of Indonesia with the Dutch army, and then immigrated to Canada from Holland at age 30, unable to speak any English. 

He learned the language, plied his trade as sheet metal worker successfully, became a foreman, built a new life, enjoyed his family, contributed to his church and his community, and died peacefully in his sleep, beloved by friends, children, and grandchildren. 

What a blessing to have known him, and to have his example. He was always grateful, even in adversity. He never became bitter or angry, no matter the circumstances—even behind the barbed wire of a slave labour camp as a teenager. He enjoyed every day given to him and saw it as a gift. And so I celebrate even while I mourn and look for the things to be grateful for, as he did. 

Another thing I am grateful for is that, despite COVID and the hunger and poverty that are still with us, the CLAC Foundation’s work has expanded over the past year. We have helped dozens and dozens of new immigrants and those experiencing homelessness across the country get the training they need so that they can work again, provide for their families, restore their dignity, and participate in society. We’ve also been able to support workers in developing countries with emergency funding, union workshop costs, and even a mobile phone app to help unionizing efforts

We are now looking for ways to also support migrant workers in Canada, who are too often poorly treated, or even abused. They’re the developing world right in our own backyard and provide almost half the agricultural workforce in Canada. 

There’s clearly much more work to be done to enable individual and community transformation through positive rewarding and fulfilling work, as our vision statement says. Our support network is expanding, as are our partners and projects. I’m grateful to play a small part in all of it. 

My Christmas won’t be so blue after all. I hope you find things to be grateful for as well, no matter what your circumstances.

The CLAC Foundation supports training for homeless people and those experiencing poverty in Canada, as well as new immigrants, and also funds international projects, training, and workshops that help workers advocate for their rights in the developing world, where working conditions are often far worse than in Canada and benefits are scarce.

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