Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas…and the Spirit of Giving….

The welcoming wreath for this year
I have been approaching the Christmas season this year with mixed emotions.  I am still suffering the grief of a recent personal loss. But today the true meaning of Christmas occurred to me while I was decorating the Christmas tree to welcome my daughter and her partner here this weekend for an early Christmas celebration.
New Christmas decorations for the tree from my visit to Samoa May 2011
I cast my mind back a few years to when I used to deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly in my neighbourhood; the service of hot, daily meals allowed these people to live relatively independent lives in their homes. 

One of my favourite women was named Joan.  She was a woman of over 80 years, very lined in her face, rarely changing from her nightclothes, despite the most fervent efforts of her visiting daily nurse . She appeared to be distrustful and cynical in her attitude towards other people. She lived in her family’s home, in the little annex bedroom, a verandah attached to the formal part of the house.  She listened to talk back radio all day and all night when she could not sleep. Whenever she heard me talking on one show or another on the radio, she would comment when I delivered her meal on a Friday.  If I had been on TV and she had seen the show she would comment, usually negatively, about my appearance.  She had a grudging respect for me, I think…I had a great respect for her. 

Joan had lost her fiancée in the Second World War and had never fallen in love again.  She chose to live with her widowed mother for the rest of her life; and when her mother died, she became somewhat of a recluse. After about two years of delivering her Friday meals she asked me to enter the inner sanctum of her house.  I was most surprised to be invited.  It was like walking back into a different time.  The little weatherboard house was clad in pressed iron, walls and roof. The furnishings were from the 1950s; even the lightening was antiquated.

 But the reason she asked me inside was to show me a photo of herself as a young woman.  This wizened, craggy old woman, had been absolutely beautiful when younger.  Her photo showed her in a figure hugging dress, discretely draped, her hair coiffed in the style of the times, her demeanour elegant and poised.  All she said to me was “I wanted you to see this, now, off you go.”
The recipes are ready for Christmas..new and old choices this year
Joan died a few years ago.  But the reason I mention her now, is that after sharing herself, I chose to include her in my Christmas time.  She had no one to visit her on Christmas Day…”it’s just another lonely day” she would say.  So I decided to change that, even though she was reluctant.  After Christmas service I would visit her; casually, with some Christmas food and even on one occasion my children.  She would say that I was wasting my time, but as I was leaving, I would see a tear, gently coursing down her craggy, lined face, from her lovely eyes.

That to me is what Christmas is about.   Not the gifts, not the elaborate church services, but the spirit of Christmas…  giving to those in whose life you can make even a tiny difference. And giving thanks to those who have reached out to you with kindness.

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