I love Christmas.  I love the lights, the music, the ambience.  I even love the snow (because snow and Christmas just seem, in my mind, to go together – though the people in tropical parts of the world may disagree).   I love how people seem to be kinder to one another.  Donations to food banks tend to increase.  People adopt less fortunate families.  Toy Mountain, a program aimed at collecting new, unwrapped toys for children who might otherwise not have any gifts for Christmas, has been going in Calgary for almost 20 years.  This is what Christmas is all about.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, the one-upmanship of buying the latest hit toy or gadget or gimmick on the market.  Of going mad making sure that you have the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect lights, the perfect menu, the perfect Currier & Ives Christmas.  You make lists, shop, bake, decorate, cook, and clean – everything is orchestrated with almost military precision.  Outwardly, it may appear lovely – while inwardly many of us are one nerve away from snapping.

As I look back at Christmases past, the one that stands out to me is the year my mom died.  You see, when I was 6 years old (middle of three sisters), my dad died from a sudden heart attack, leaving my mom to raise three young girls on her own.  To make matters worse, he died at the beginning of November.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for my suddenly widowed mom.  But somehow, she managed to pull together Christmas for ‘her girls’ and Christmas was always a magical time from that point on.  When my mom died, effectively making me an orphan in my late 30s (and let me tell you, I don’t care how old you are – the realization that you’re an orphan is awful), we were faced with our first Christmas without our beloved mom.  So, rather than try to carry on as normal when – obviously –nothing would ever be ‘normal’ again, we chose to do something completely different for Christmas – kind of trick ourselves into believing that this Christmas was different because we chose to make it different – not because there was a glaring mom-shaped hole in our hearts.

So we banded together and hosted a breakfast at the seniors building where my mom had lived.  The local Co-op grocery store sponsored us with gift cards for groceries, we donated prize items for draws, and showed up bright and early in the social room/kitchen of the building Christmas morning.  Many more seniors than ought to have been there on a Christmas morning came down and shared Christmas morning with us.  There was fun, fellowship, smiles, camaraderie, and yes – happiness!  I know our mom was there in spirit.  As she had pulled together Christmas for her girls 32 years before, so we were pulling it together for some lonely seniors – and mending our broken hearts in the process.

Because, you see, it’s true – there is no better balm for a shattered heart than helping others.  That is what Christmas is all about.  Love one another.  Care for one another.  Help one another through a season that can be painful for so many.  All the expensive gifts and fancy gadgets in the world can’t compare – and your kindness may be a gift that changes someone’s life.  This is my wish for you this Christmas.  God bless.

Gayle Phillips