From the earliest civilizations, people have celebrated the return of light to the world in December, and diverse traditions have evolved. One popular tradition today is gift giving, which is now more critical than ever. Many in the payments industry adapted to the extraordinary conditions thrown at us and are faring well this holiday season; other folks are not. Too many workers have suffered job losses; too many families have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
This reminds me of Nancy W. Gavin, who started the White Envelope Project. She didn't intend to start a project of any kind. She just wanted to give her husband, Mike, a meaningful gift, because he abhorred the commercial aspects of Christmas celebrations.
An idea came to her after she and her husband attended a wrestling competition. Their son's school had spiffy uniforms, new shoes and helmets. The competing team had no uniforms or protective gear. Their shoes were worn out street shoes. At the end of the event, the disadvantaged team hadn't won a single match. Mike expressed how sad he was about this and how much he wished he could change prospects for the competing team.
On Christmas Day, a slim, white enveloped for Mike was tucked amid ornaments on the tree. Inside was a note telling him Nancy had purchased a slew of uniforms, headgear and shoes and shipped them, in his name, to the losing team. This brought him so much happiness that she donated goods to causes that were meaningful to him each following year. He read about them each Christmas in a note tucked into a white envelope. So did their three children. And this grew into a tradition that became the highlight of their holiday.
One Christmas, Nancy was grieving, because Mike had passed away. She continued the tradition anyway, placing a white envelope on the tree. Then on Christmas Day, three more envelopes appeared on the tree, one from each of their children. The family continues the tradition to this day and hopes future generations will keep it growing.
This is just one family's story spurred by one man's wish to improve the lives of youngsters who passed briefly through his life. Imagine what would happen if we all did something similar, something in addition to dropping a gift off at a holiday toy drive, donating canned goods to a food bank or writing a check to a favorite charity. These kinds of donations are essential, but if we make a point of noticing people or groups in need who affect us deeply during the course of a year, and do something to make a difference to just one of them, it could add many positive dimensions to the holidays.
We are in the business of enhancing people's lives by improving transaction processing and facilitating a host of business services. Beyond that, we are as diverse as the stars above. We can each decide what we want to do to shine more light on the world.
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