I love the music and films of Christmas. I think my all-time favourite Christmas film is 1951’s A Christmas Carol, with Alastair Sim. And – lately – it’s something the Ghost of Christmas Present says to Scrooge that touches me most and which I most wish to share with you all this year:
Mortal, we spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of the year. We live the whole 365. So it is true of the child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men’s hearts only one day of the year but in all the days of the year.
In other words, the caring we Christians show at Christmas shouldn’t be limited only to the festive season. A lesson of Christ was that he cared for one and all (including Samaritans!) 365 days of the year, not just when he was having a birthday. I think a form of Christianity that embraced this tenet (365 day a year caring) more hardily (and without proselytzing!) might be a kind of Christianity I could actually find myself feeling “into” at this stage in the game.
As the Ghost of Christmas Present informed Ebenezer Scrooge, the spirit of Christmas should reside in or homes 365 days a year, not just while our house is festooned with the lights on the tree.
I like to believe that each of us has a Good King Wenceslas inside. It’s just a matter of letting him out. And – by the way – if a Bohemian Duke in the 10th century saw the obvious necessity of such acts of goodness towards those with less, back in times when no one had convection ovens or central heating, shouldn’t we grasp this so much more so today, when the difference between those who have and those who have not is a million times greater?
That’s why I’ve been inviting Readers, one and all, to think outside the gift-wrapped box, as it were, this Christmas. This Christmas has been, for me on a personal note, a challenge to think of others with renewed caring, to consider “giving” and “charity” in a new light.
I started this sermonizing (don’t ask me why! I guess the “state of the world” weighed a little extra heavy on my spirit this year…) a few posts back in The *Real* Roots of Empathy (and the *REAL* Truth About Teacher Gifts!), then continued the theme with The Two Lists of Christmas, Pt.I. This missive was intended to be the final installment, per se, Butterfly’s The Two Lists of Christmas, Pt. II, as it were.
The more time I spent thinking about this, the more I wondered whether I should really be posting anything about it at all. It seems like people who care about others, care about the world, will care, whether I preach about it or not. And people who don’t care? Well, blah blah, vice versa I suppose. And I don’t guess either group will be really too thrilled to open Butteflymumma and see I’ve taken to posting poorly written sermons.
So I don’t want to preach to people who are reading. I only want to share some ideas. Some are actions we have taken (so we can celebrate those – Whoopie!), some are just thoughts. If you are looking for kindness ideas (things you can do with your kids), you may appreciate some of my list. And – please – feel free to share your own kindness ideas in the comments. Some kindness brainstorming would be a nice outcome of all this heartache I’ve been feeling as of late.
Then again! There are SO many ideas (real, practical ones) for how we can be kind. Much as I doubted whether I should “talk about kindness” in the FIRST place – now that I’ve started – I’ve realized that neither the case for kindness nor a list of ways in which we can carry it out can be summed up into a brief soundbite or one tidy link that takes just moment or two to read. If the case for kindness is worth one (uh, two? Okay, three…) posts, then why not a whole series?
And so, I’m not finishing my list today afterall. Rather, I am just beginning it. :)
Well, without further adieu, I’ll begin that list.
Acts of Kindness that You Can Share With Your Family:
1. Make some baggies for the Homeless. If you live in a city anything near the size of Ottawa, you’ve seen them before – those folks haunting the major downtown intersections and highway off-ramps. We’ve all heard the story of that out-of-their-mind-on-whatever crazy, smelly person who has jumped into some unsuspecting person’s idling car. I know I’ve always felt intimidated and checked the car door locks whenever we’ve been approached, especially if my own children were aboard the car at the time. But what about the person on the other side? How does it feel to be them?
One day I saw an Inuit lady, with round cheeks and a pleasant smile (although missing some teeth). She was maybe about my own age. I instinctively found myself reaching for my purse (I must have something that could help her…!), even though I knew I only had a few coins. She saw my fumbling and ambled towards me at the same moment as the light changed. Heartbroken and trapped in traffic, I drove off. She waved and smiled at me, as if to say my small gesture was enough. When I got home, I made these bags. I’ve been looking for this lady everytime I get off the Queensway ever since.
I’ve alluded to this activity before. We started with some of those omni-present doodads from the dentist’s office. All those extra toothbrushes, tiny toothpastes and mini containers of dental floss were cluttering up the medicine cabinet. Could someone else maybe, perhaps, use them?
I found 4 sets of such items lying around and got out 4 large baggies to put them in. Soon I had found some other things to go inside too, protein bars, candy canes, and warm mittens (Thanks to my mom’s friend Myra, who is an ace knitter, I have far more pairs than I will ever use). Seeing those items inside, I got excited about what else I might be able to stuff in, bearing in mind that the recipient would be a person sleeping on the street, or – perhaps – at a local shelter. At the grocery store I found a few more things I hoped might be worth giving (I bought some warm socks for men, as the mitts of mine were very feminine). I didn’t end up getting (couldn’t afford) everything I could think of ($5 Tim Horton’s gift cards seemed like a good idea…), but, soon, I had four bulging bags, which looked like this:
Four Baggies for the Homeless
“Ladies” baggie close-up
“Mens” baggie close-up
My son was super-excited about this particular kindness activity. From the moment I put the bags in the front passenger seat of my car (where I’d be able to reach them when I needed one!), he began looking forward to the giving of one. From the get-go, this idea has captured his imagination like nothing else (so much so that – one day when we passed a homeless man while out as passengers in someone else’s car – Boo got very upset). And so I was really hoping he’d be out with me one day when the moment finally came to give one.
So far I’ve got to give out just one. Boo wasn’t with me. I was alone, driving home from a Christmas luncheon for Scientists in School. As I stopped in the growing twilight (so early that afternoon!) at the corner of Sussex and Rideau, I spotted a tall scruffy man darting in and out of the lanes of traffic, bearing an empty Tim Horton’s cup.
I rolled the window down as fast as I was able, reaching out with my right hand for a baggie as quickly as I was able too, constantly aware that I was 3 lanes over and the light would change at any second. I yelled something, then glanced with relief as I saw I’d grabbed a “Men’s” bag.
The man was light on his feet, and – I think – younger than I’d first thought. His manners were nicer than I’d imagined too. I said “This is for you. Merry Chrismas!” and he said “Thank you!!! Merry Christmas!!!” back with a genuine sound of gladness and gratitude in his French Canadian accent. The light changed as he quickly hopped back to the sidewalk and I drove off, smiling.
That moment, with a stranger I’d have previously seen only as dirty and frightening, made my day. Instead of fearing these stops, I now looked eagerly from side to side, hoping to spy someone else to whom I might give one of these goodie bags.
I got home, and my son was jealous when he heard. Later, as we listened to the evening news on the radio, he piped up, “Mom, imagine it was on the radio: ‘At a red light today a lady opened her window and gave a man a bag…'” He was happy and proud. And I felt good too.
God knows, it’s nice to imagine a world where the news is full of kindness instead of misery. I am kind of proud that my young son still has that much imagination.
As I said, it seems to me now that I can’t tell you about each of these new experiences in caring all in one big “list” anymore. It’s apparent to me now that each idea for kindness and caring stands alone as a thought. In 2015, I hope to share many such thoughts and – so – look for the Caring Column (you can click “Caring”, under the Categories sidebar, to find it anytime) as a regular feature on Butterflymumma then.
Stay tuned in a few days more for some sort of New Year’s post (possibly my promised diatribe on the state of the English Language!) Ought to be fun!
All for now,