Charity, rooted in love

To trace the origins of the word charity you have to follow an etymological path that winds back from the Anglo-French charité, to the Latin caritas meaning love. Some scholars push its frontiers further back to...

To trace the origins of the word charity you have to follow an etymological path that winds back from the Anglo-French charité, to the Latin caritas meaning love. Some scholars push its frontiers further back to the Sanskrit word for love, k ma.

My old, battered and Duct-Taped Webster’s New Collegiate has held a privileged place on my desk since 1962. It provides a clearly politically incorrect definition of charity by contemporary standards. It reads “Act of loving all men as brothers because they are sons of God.”

A contemporary definition would insert humanity for ‘all men’ and add ‘and sisters’ into its formulation. This would most likely be regarded as a long-overdue act of linguistic charity towards the somewhat more than half of our species that the original definition neglected.

A rising number of folk in our increasingly secular world at best argue about the existence of a deity or deities. Lately we have seen their punches and counterpunches exchanged on ads covering the sides of buses in places like London, England. At worse many see that argument as a complete waste of breath. Probably in most instances both atheists and agnostics alike would expunge the rest of the definition.

The concept of charity, however defined, persists. It remains stubbornly holding out in the humane psyche no matter what creed or lack of one a person professes. In the deepest times of corporate greed and institutionalized selfishness we have responded generously to others in need.

Now in what is emerging as the most challenging economic crisis in our time, the call to charity in its broadest forms must be answered on a heroic scale. Compounded by a looming global environmental crisis foreshadowed by events like last week’s bush fires in Australia, though, there is a strong tendency towards actions that place the highest priority on self-preservation, national and personal. In economic terms this is translated as protectionism, a basic anti-globalism. It can be coupled to an atavistic abandonment of the social and environmental safeguards we have all too slowly developed over the last century.

Last week the Food Bank Society of Whitehorse held its first annual general meeting. This week the founding executive director of PovNet, Penny Goldsmith, came to Whitehorse to talk about the future of this online resource for the national anti-poverty community. Next Thursday at 5 p.m. the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition will hold its monthly meeting at

Maryhouse at 504 Cook Street.

These events all share a common thread. They promote charity at its most fundamental level, responding to the needs of the abandoned, marginalized and neglected in our society.

This week Dr. Chandu Claver from the Philippines came to Whitehorse as the 2009 Development and Peace Solidarity Speaker. He challenged us to remember that we cannot limit our charity to the Yukon or even Canada. Our actions or inactions have an impact far from our shores.

Today our concern must take on a global dimension. Last Monday a report entitled Philippines — Mining or Food? was launched. Parliamentarians, indigenous rights advocates, and representatives of church and non-governmental organizations stood side by side at Westminster in London, England, following on a similar action in Manila, Philippines.

They called for “a moratorium on new mining in the Philippines, a review of existing mining projects, and a withdrawal of international investment in mining until proper procedures are in place to protect human rights and the environment.”

A current petition Development and Peace campaign mirrors this effort. It calls on the Canadian government to take action on our behalf. “Standing with the people of the Global

South, we insist that you develop legal mechanisms to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for their actions abroad.” More than 41,000 people have signed their online petition (

This Valentine’s Day maybe we can show our love by an act of charity, local or global. After all, charity is rooted in love.

Namaste Notes

Saturday, February 14 — Valentine’s Day now a secular celebration of love, originally honoured St. Valentine, a third-century Christian martyr and the love of God he represented.

Sunday, February 15 — Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark: 1: 40-45.

Sunday, February 15 — Nirvana Day is a Buddhist observance of the death of the Buddha.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

Most Read