Left Justified: My Christmas list

By Stanley Campbell

Every year, I make a list of things I want to do for the holidays. And this year is no different. But here’s a few new ideas I’d like to share with you.

First new idea: Do we love war more than peace?

I don’t. I like peace and gave up war when I saw one real close-up in Vietnam. Big waste of time and money, take my word for it.

So, I’ve invited a big-time religious leader in the peace movement to come to Rockford and talk about it. Jim Winkler is the general secretary of the United Methodists’ Board of Church & Society. He deals with peace and justice issues, and has offices on Capitol Hill and in the United Nations, though every time I’ve visited him, he was in Washington, D.C.

Jim has family here in northern Illinois, and he spoke to our little peace group once before. Jim was against going to war in Iraq in August 2002, and has been a steadfast opponent ever since. Years later, 109 bishops repented for their failure to speak early and often against the war. They now listen to him a little more closely.

Jim is here for the holidays, so I’ve gotten him to speak Sunday, Dec. 27, for an afternoon program starting at 1:30 at Court Street United Methodist Church, 215 N. Court St., Rockford (just north of the county courthouse).

Of course, the program is free and open to the public, and you are more than welcome. The title of his talk is “Why We Love War and Hate Peace.” This is a Christmas gift to the community from Rockford Urban Ministries, for which I work.

The second idea is to shop non-profit. Salvation Army and other non-profit thrift stores recycle what normally might end up in our landfills and groundwater. Look for fair-trade mission groups like SERRV and 10,000 Villages who sell beautiful items. Church bazaars support worthwhile projects and have great prices. JustGoods Fair Trade Store at 201 Seventh St., (open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sundays, 1-5 p.m., for your holiday shopping pleasure) is nonprofit and sells fairly-traded gifts—the best of both worlds.

But what to get for that uncle who has everything? Why not donate cash in his name to a favorite charity? Maybe he likes animals, so give to Noah’s Ark. Does your aunt like to take walks in the park? Then contribute to Natural Land Institute, Severson Dells or Klehm Arboretum. Spend time making a colorful gift certificate and include brochures from the organizations. OK, that idea I’ve said before, but it should be repeated.

Crusader Clinic is my favorite medical facility and does wonderful work in the community. Rockford Area Pregnancy Care Center and Rockford Habitat for Humanity, as well as Rockford Urban Ministries are other fine suggestions for donations.

In fact, there are a lot of organizations that deserve our help. The idea is to give a gift that reflects the spirit of the season. Instead of looking for expensive geegaws or clothing made in sweatshops, try to find an expression of love for those who need it the most.

Get into the Christmas spirit by alleviating the suffering of hurricane victims and hungry people around the world, support the CROP Hunger Walk (Church World Service). All the funds go to reputable international aid agencies, and one-quarter of it comes back to Rockford for the Food Pantry Coalition.

The idea is to try to reignite the true spirit of Christmas this holiday season.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Dec. 16-22, 2009 issue