I thought I'd start a discussion about personal/family Christmas traditions. Anything is fair game.
Once the week before Christmas, when I was serving as a Chaplain in a major Trauma center, I saw a family (Mom, Dad, and 6 year old girl) walking the halls looking a little lost. I asked what unit the wanted to find and they said "Peds". As we started walking toward Pediatrics, I asked who they were visiting? When the Mother answered "No one.", alarms when off. "Why," I thought "were these people going to Peds, if they didn't know anyone there?" When I asked the question, the Father answered, "You see, this daughter of ours? We love her and even spoil her a little. She thinks that she is the center of the world. Before Christmas can come to our house, we go to the toy store where she picks out what she wants most for Christmas. It's in the bag here. Then we come to a hospital and she give it away to a child who is sick and won't be having Christmas at home. That's our way of helping her understand that Christmas is about giving."
This story just blew me away. Since then, every Christmas I go buy something that I would really, really want and then go and give it to someone who is not in a position to give back. That's my personal Christmas tradition
One night before Christmas, many years ago,I was up in my bachelor pad-a flat above a shop in a rough part of south London.I was looking at the snow falling outside my bedroom window.I remember thinking how lucky I was because I could feel the heat from the radiator rising into my face.The sheer luxury of it.Then I started thinking about the homeless dudes who'd be trying to get some kip up in the west end in some shop doorway.Just then something caught my eye on top of the wardrobe-it was an x army sleeping bag.It was waterproof and a nice bit of kit.Well then of course the internal dialogue starts up-
good voice 'you should take that up to the homeless'
bad voice 'yeah, but I might want it one day'
good voice 'ok, so when's the last time you used it?'
etc etc-well, I'm glad to report the good voice won.I tied the sleeping bag to the back of me mountain bike,picked it up and headed down the stairwell.
I excused myself as I pushed past the drug dealers that used to hang out in my front door (like I said, it was a classy neighbourhood) and started north-the mountain bike tyres making a satisfying ssss sound- as I peddled into the night.Past Clapham South tube station,Clapham common, Clapham North, Stockwell, over the river Thames and past the Houses of Parliament.Into the west end-I knew where to go.Now it pains me to tell you that all the way up to the city centre a stupid part of me (my ego) kept telling me how generous I was being, what a good guy I was.I hate to admit that bit, but fear not, dear reader, It was an aberration that I'd soon be free of.
I stopped by Charing Cross and locked my bike to the railings-now,who to give it to..there was a homeless dude in every doorway.I spotted a guy who had the least protection against the sub zero temperature-I mean, this guy had nothing at all covering him.I walked over and, still feeling like some kinda saint, offered him the sleeping bag.He eyed it, looked up at me and said "that sure looks like a fine sleeping bag..but theres a guy who's just arrived from Scotland-he's in the next doorway-I think you should give it to him." My face must have been a picture-my mouth fell open..I asked him if he was sure..he said he was. I did as I was bid and helped pull the other guy into the bag and wished him luck.
It still brings a lump to my throat when I think of that homeless guys generosity toward another man he didn't even know.As you've probably guessed, my journey back down to the southside was remarkably undisturbed by any internal idiotic claims to my own generosity, which was as nothing compared to what I witnessed that night.
Happy Christmas nationdudes