This is a guest post by my coauthor of the Christmas advent calendar. Her annual Christmas letter is always a delight to read veering from heartfelt to funny to poignant. So here is Janice’s advent report card.
Well it didn’t take long for Christmas present – to become Christmas past! The month of December just flew by, as we knew it would. With all of the hustle and bustle of the season, we quickly get caught up in the excitement and anticipation of guests, food, activities and all that we are expected to do at this time of year. Most of us fall into a rut with traditions we feel we need to continue, or with events and engagements that we perceive we are required to achieve and attend. Stress is a major factor in our busy lives, which becomes a stumbling block for many people this time of year.
With that being said, last year, Bernie and I subscribed to an Advent in Gratitude calendar which was a 24 day giving challenge, born out of an over-coffee conversation between three friends. The purpose was to remind us of what gifts we already have, what we often take for granted, what we can and should be grateful for and what we can do to help others. This would become a monetary donation at the end of the 25 day calendar – to be payable to a charity of our choice. We enjoyed it so much last year that we decided to do one ourselves – personalizing it to our own lives for this year.
I was surprised at what I found during those days. December 7: Offer to have a sleepover with someone special had my Granddaughter in mind – such a precious time for us both! I know Bernie felt the same! Maybe next December we will have to have a double sleepover; Bernie and I with our little ones!
I thought December 15: Organize a potluck supper for 10 or more family and/or friends to share together was going to be difficult, but it was so much fun! I just posted on Facebook that this was what I was doing, and invited anyone able to join us. It could have turned out to be quite a circus – but I had the required 10 guests confirmed, all different backgrounds and relationships to both my husband and myself, and we had a fabulous evening. I would definitely do it again – maybe in the summer time – then more people could join us.
The event I was most looking forward to was on December 16: Build yourself a snowman (with or without help) was to be an activity my little granddaughter and I should have shared, but the day turned out to be too cold, and the snow just blew away out of our hands! Bernie chose a different day to do hers, and she posted the cutest little guy that was a perfect Grandmother/Granddaughter moment!
December 20: Write and leave a kind message for a loved one to find had both Bernie and I sharing a picture – probably to prove to each other that we actually did it! It made me smile. Bernie’s was more artistic, but I was not taking any chances on anyone missing my note!
This whole exercise was to remind us how fortunate we are to live in a country like Canada. That we are blessed with good health, family close by to spend quality time with, amazing partners who stand beside us when we need (and push us a little when we need that too!) and the means to live a comfortable life. Many are not so fortunate. Some of these activities included giving donations to the food bank, books to charities that could use them and toiletries to groups in need. Rather than make anonymous donations to people I don’t know (although any charity would have been worthy recipients), I didn’t need to look far to find someone who found herself in need. With a recent break in her marriage and two young children to look after – my co-worked was in trouble. Therefore, all my activities that included giving to a charity – she became my one and only charity this year. I was able to get others at work board, and I was honoured in be included when she was presented with two huge boxes of food, clothing, books, toiletries, games and gifts. She sobbed tears of joy, gratitude, embarrassment and relief was humbling to me – reminding me of the true spirit of Christmas is not what we receive, but what we give from our hearts, and that we do not have far to go to find someone that might need a helping hand.. Her cupboards were bare that day, now she could go home and place the food upon them, wrap gifts for under her tree – she was looking forward to Christmas with more excitement than she had planned.
I was not able to do all of the 25 days in our calendar – but for donation purposes, I complete each and every one for a grand total of ($5/activity/day) $125.00. My charity this year will be the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society where a notice was posted a few days ago which broke my heart: URGENT CARE NEEDED! This petite 6-week-old needs you to send all your love her way! With serious health concerns and weighing only 0.5kg, her fragile body and life so far has been nothing like the fairy tale she deserves. We are hopeful that we can change that…Meet Minnie Mouse. Our animal friends find themselves in situations that are not of their making – when they have serious needs, they require our monetary and physical intervention. Get well, Little One!
However you choose to give back to your family, friends or community – please take that time to do so.
Everyone wins! I guarantee you will become a better person for it, as you make new friends along the way. We can share our good fortune – today – tomorrow – and always.
May the peace and beauty of this season comfort and surround you throughout 2019.
My personal donation total will be the same as hers; I had a couple of combined ones but pretty much did each challenge although once or twice it’s wasn’t as timely as planned. I believe I will put mine into a gift card and gift it to the refugee family I’ve been assisting. They celebrate Christmas on the orthodox calendar so at the beginning of January I will organize that.
All in all it has been a stellar advent adventure because we have so many advantages. Out of our life of white Canadian privilege if we can just change the trajectory of one perhaps it changes the path of many. A concept that was reinforced as I read “The Tattooist of Auschwitz”; my Christmas holiday book. We have so much to be thankful for, let us never forget that and always pay it forward.