The 12 Days of Christmas Blessings at the Shelter
It is the time of sleigh bells ringing and mistletoe and ivy adorning every doorway.
It is the season of snowmen standing sentry on front lawns with carrot noses and button eyes peering fearlessly into the dark winter's dawn.
The time of rosy cheeks and frosty breath steaming up an icy window and icicles suspended upside down from rooftops and tree branches.
It is a time for love, faith and joy. For holiday spirits rising and temperatures falling as children snuggle in for a long winter's nap with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.
It is a time for hope.
A time when the Christian world awaits the promise of a Savior's birth who will rule the world in truth and grace. When Muslim and Sikh and Buddhist and Hindu and Shinto and Jew and atheists alike pray for peace amongst all mankind as we struggle to find comfort and joy amongst us.
A time when we stop and take a collective breath to rejoice in family, in goodwill amongst men, in our blessings gathered around a Christmas tree twinkling in the night.
It is a time for love. For sharing our abundance. For giving and receiving.
At the shelter Christmastime is a time of joy and of sorrow. A time when those who have nothing look to give something to the one's they love. For some, that something is another year without them sitting arm in arm at the table. For them, whatever drove them to the street continues to hold them back from stepping once again across the family hearth to connect to the circle of love into which they were born.
For others, they will give a phone call. A card. A simple note with the words, "Merry Christmas" written upon it.
For some, they will take what little they have and spend it on a special treat for a sweetheart, a table mate, a friend. They will share, a cigarette, a sip of pop, a coffee. They will share a smile, a hug, a warm greeting.
And for others, Christmas will come and go without their noticing its passing. They will remain locked in the lure of the substance that has stolen them away from those they love, that has wrenched them far from their family's embrace and left them here, on the street, searching for a way out as they wait in hope of a new day rising on the fullness of the promise of Christmas Eve.
Christmas is a time for mixed emotions at the shelter. A time to yearn for family circles and broken dreams. A time to long for a place to belong where poverty and lack and broken promises no longer fill the horizon of another day lost to the street.
And, it is a time to rejoice. To give thanks. To celebrate. A time for every purpose under heaven.
Yesterday, I went into the shelter to give a tour to a group of young hockey players who had driven an hour to drop-off boxes of hats and scarves and mitts and socks. "We had a Head to Toe Toss," one of the players excitedly told me. "We invited everyone who came to our tournament this weekend to donate something to the shelter."
Those 'somethings' resulted in over 1400 items plus $400 cash for purchasing lipbalm and razors and cough drops -- desperately needed items on our WishList.
As the students formed a line carrying the boxes into the shelter, clients stopped to thank them, to lend a hand, to wish them Merry Christmas. The children's faces lit up. They smiled and said, "You're welcome."
In the faces of those nine and ten year olds is the spirit of Christmas. They did not ask, "Why should we have to do this?". They simply asked, "Where do we put these boxes?" Their excitement in delivering the bounty of their Head to Toe Toss reminded everyone that, no matter what side of the street we walk on, we can all make a difference simply by sharing what we have without looking for someone to tell us what to do or what to give.
When we open our hearts, as these children did, and simply give because it's the right thing to do, we create a world that is so much more right than wrong. We create a world where the possibility of forgiveness awakens with every breath and where healing begins in every broken heart.
From all of us. Merry Christmas.