Goodies was also special because it was the only time of the year that we had apples, grapes, ham, turkey and those boxed chocolates, dates and cookies.
In Canada, with more resources and young children, Christmas became a bigger event. This time it was about the Christmas tree, decorations, and a lot more presents. And then things began to change.
When my wife and I became empty nesters we soon realized that there are only so many sweaters, perfume, and gift cards that you could exchange before you were scratching your head and wondering what next you were going to buy as a gift for the spouse. Christmas also began to feel like a crazy orgy of spending with no real meaning.
So last Christmas we made a decision not to exchange gifts, but rather to contribute the money to deserving charities.
Additionally, we had talked for many years about other ways in which we could make Christmas more meaningful. That is until this year when we decided to volunteer at a shelter in Montreal on Christmas day.
Naturally, we were not sure what to expect or how to feel because it was something that we had never done before. And then the day arrived and before we knew it we were on our way downtown to our destination.
When we got to the shelter we learnt that the objective for the staff was to make the day a special one for the clients. While my wife took up a position helping in the kitchen, it became my responsibility to arrange the many small tables into one long one and go about laying the table cloth, setting out the plates, knives, forks, spoons and glasses.
And instead of the usual lining up for their meal at the kitchen, the clients were able to take their seat at an appropriately decorated table with festive accoutrements and wait to be served.
It was my responsibility to do the last leg of the food-serving chain from the kitchen by passing it on to the clients at the table. As I did so I got the feeling that they truly appreciated the gesture. My guess is that when you are down (and sometimes out) you get the feeling that you are not important and nobody cares.
Before long, the meal of turkey and ham was served along with soft drinks and cake for dessert and the place was in the Christmas mood. Gifts were distributed and the staff and volunteers joined in to share the meal. Needless to say, it was a deeply fulfilling experience to see the pleasant and satisfied looks on the faces of the folks as they ate their food and engaged in lively conversation.
On our way home it was difficult to contain the emotions that both my wife and I felt. We could have stayed at home, had our own turkey and ham and exchanged the usual gifts, but the fact that we were able to make someone else’s day brighter made all the difference.
And indeed it is something that we plan to do a lot more because we have been so blessed in our own lives.