When I was about seven years old I lived with my mother and two young sisters in a rented housing trust house in Adelaide. My parents had divorced when I was five, and since that time my mother had struggled to support us on her own with no regular income. The year our family joined the Mormon church I remember that we were left a box of groceries at Christmas. I remember the awe and excitement when I saw that we had been given a whole chicken, some potato chips, and other goodies. I felt very rich and very grateful.
People frequently would like to help out around Christmas time but we are not always sure of the best way to do it. Yesterday's post offered a great way to give. Or perhaps some of the following ideas will appeal to you...
Operation Christmas Child allows you to pack a shoe-box of gifts that is then sent overseas to wherever such gifts are needed. The website explains what to pack and where to take your box or boxes. It's a wonderful feeling to know that what you have put together will bring enormous delight to the child in a third world country who receives your box. If you cannot afford to fill a box, volunteers are always welcome and needed to help out in the warehouse from October to December.
The K-Mart Wishing Tree Appeal teams with the Salvation Army each year to use the K-Mart stores as collection points for gifts donated by the public. Many families have a tradition of helping their children to purchase and place a gift under the tree each year. The appeal aims to distribute over 500,000 gifts this year.
Nursing Homes Patients and the Elderly are often forgotten at Christmas. Groups and individuals tend to favour caroling or visiting children's hospitals in preference, but the truth is that children in hospital are usually well catered for, (speaking as one who used to nurse in a children's hospital and who has had a child in hospital at Christmas). It's the elderly who need our care most. Are you worried that you might feel uncomfortable and not know what to say? Everyone thinks that will be a problem until they actually go to visit. The elderly are usually so happy for the visit that you will give great pleasure if all you do is ask a few questions about their life, or hold their hand for a while. Perhaps take some nail polish and ask if anyone would like their nails done.. If you can take a child, or if the Nursing home allows you to take in a small pet, you will be a huge hit! It's not a glamorous activity but it can be very heart-warming - and it does bring comfort and joy, if that is your goal. If you don't have a full Christmas day, you might find this a worthy activity.
Christmas Packages and Gifts. It's lovely to receive them, but lonely if you are the only one who does not receive a present when you are part of a group. In Brisbane we have about 180 volunteer missionaries who serve our church for two years away from their families. Most of those missionaries receive a parcel from home at Christmas time. But each year about 20 - 40 do not, so a useful service idea is to provide Christmas packages for those who would otherwise go without. The same would be true of those who are in prison. If the warden if willing to indicate how many of prisoners are unlikely to receive any gifts, it would be a great kindness to those men and women for them to know that they are thought of. Nursing Homes, Women's shelters, Homes for the Disabled, and Men's hostels are other possible organizations which might be able to be helped in this way.
It's the Little Things.. that can mean a lot. We can all do them, and they cost little or nothing:
- See if you can say, 'have a good day!' before your sales person has time to. They are probably tired and rushed from the day too :)
- Smile at people as you go about before Christmas. A lot of people look harried and even grumpy. Help them to remember that this is a good time of year.
- Give out some Christmas cards. They don't need to be fancy. It's a nice way to let people know they are thought of.
- Check with your neighbours, friends and acquaintances that they are ok for Christmas Day - which can be the loneliest day of the year if you don't have anyone. It's easy to make another seat at the table, and can make all the difference to someone who would be otherwise completely alone.
Happy Christmas Everyone!!
(The Blog is taking a break over Christmas week and will be back on Monday 31st.)