I love Christmas. I thoroughly enjoy it. I try and plan some type of Christmas adventure every year for Sue and I, like Black Creek Pioneer Village for turkey dinner, or Ripley’s Aquarium for Christmas carols or The Distillery District for apple cider and photos.
Tis The Season Christmas Tree ornanment, taken and edited on IPhone6
It always warms my heart to see how Sue, being Jewish, fully embraces the spirit of Christmas and creating traditions that are our own. She didn’t really grow up with many traditions and she had very little family, so for her, any type of tradition has been very grounding and fun in creating and celebrating. She has embraced all my families celebrations whole-heartedly.
I love Christmas lights and houses all decorated for the season. I mean, who doesn’t at this dark time of year? Sue and I always go out and pick an area of the city to go and look at the festive lights. The diversity of the city and the rising costs of hydro, is evident in the miles (okay, a block or two) we must sometimes cover between houses and displays. I don’t mind, as when we find a beautifully decorated house, it makes it truly a gem. And I love our neighbours, Jamal and his family. Strict Muslims, this year he decorated his home in Christmas lights. And my neighbours on our other side, Muslims as well, knocked on our door last week and handed us a Christmas cake, no doubt bought in Wal-Mart’s.
This year I volunteered through the local church to deliver the Toronto Star Santa Gift Boxes to underprivileged children. Off to Thorncliffe Park Sue and I went, because when I say ‘I ‘ it is always ‘We.’ I had about 20 apartments to drop off boxes for children under the age of 12. Anyone who knows the area, will understand that these buildings are heavily occupied by new comers in this country and those that struggle with under-employment. I had brought Sue to hold the door for me and to plant herself in the lobby to ensure I could get in and out easily of the building. I needn’t. It was probably one of the most busy buildings I have ever seen. People were in and out, in and out and in and out. As I approached doors, I recognized the stickers and signs as being Afghanistan. I had called everyone beforehand so they knew to expect me. Some spoke English very well, some only a little and some not at all. But all accepted the gifts very graciously, offering their thanks for the generosity that they were receiving these boxes. Every family I left boxes with were Muslim, which confounded me. I had thought I was delivering gifts to those children that celebrate Christmas but whose parents may be unable to provide gifts for under the trees. However, these boxes weren’t necessarily toys. They had hat, mitts and scarf, along with toothpaste and toothbrushes and sweaters. And a toy. These were truly for the needy. And as I made my way throughout the floors of the building, men, women and children all nodded, said hello and opened doors for me. Although I was quite obviously not from the building, I was welcomed in a quiet way there.
I worked Christmas day. In the few weeks leading up to the festive time of year, emergency services become very, very busy. There are many lonely people, disconnected from family and friends who have no one to celebrate a turkey dinner or exchange gifts with. Then there are those, with mental health illness who feel the stress and find this time emphasizes how different they are. So as listen to the radio and wander malls listening and humming along with the Christmas carols being played, there are those that suffer greatly during this time. This year seemed especially hard. There were many more hours at the hospital with those in crisis and there seemed to be more suicides this year.
A person I follow on Instagram, prairiegirlstudio, did a somber musing that struck me deeply, which I’d like to share here:
“As long as I have breath in my lungs and my heart is beating so I will keep hope.”
I was standing in this morning’s quiet light, filling the brown sugar jar.
He, the person speaking the above words, was in a house in Aleppo, Syria.
I was listening to the radio.
He was being interviewed on the radio.
I had just fed the birds outside our window.
He was describing the intensity of the loud bombs we could hear outside the building he was in.
I was hoping the aching, coughing and sneezing this cold has given me would soon be over.
He was hoping the ceasefire that was promised to happen today would allow innocent civilians to evacuate safely. Now, the ceasefire failed and he was hoping they wouldn’t be killed.
I was looking forward to getting more checked off the Christmas ‘to do’ list.
He and thousands of other Syrians were looking forward to buses to take them to safety. The buses never came.
My nose is sore from blowing.
He spoke of people lying injured in the street, screaming, with no one to help them. The dead with no one to bury them. .
I was listening to Zouhir al-Shimale, a freelance journalist, from inside eastern Aleppo. He was being interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC Radio, The Current, @cbcradiocanada
As I lay here now at day’s end, with only the sounds of the clock ticking, I can only wonder what is happening there.
What will I hear when I turn on the radio tomorrow morning and begin a new day here.
I pray he still has breath in his lungs. ♡
So as I celebrate this season, together with friends, family and loved ones, it has been with gratitude for the fullness of my life, for how much I have, and how much I am blessed. I am reminded of the spirit of the season and that not everyone will celebrate or even be free to do so. I am reminded that there are those who suffer, some close and some far off. But I am also reminded that there is hope in what can sometimes seem like the madness of our society. That there are connections between people that cross cultures, ethnicities, economics and oceans. So, as I share in the celebrations, I give a silent prayer for all those still suffering and remember, “There but the grace of God go I.”
Take a moment. Just one. To pray, think or send light out into the healing circle of the universe, for those that are still suffering and take a moment to be grateful for all you have and share this season. And enjoy, with real enthusiasm, acceptance and joy. Life is better living in gratitude. It fills your heart.