“I was brought up in a household where Christmas meant fun, laughter, presents and lots of food. Christmas was my favorite time of the year,” a social worker, who prefers to remain anonymous, began her Christmas story. “I guess that’s why, when I began my career in social work, it startled me to realize that for most of the children in my care Christmas was a very difficult time.”
She squinted a little and shook her head as she realized how naive she had been. “I very quickly realized that for many of my children, Christmas is a depressing time.
“I decided to make it my mission to offer every one of the young people in my care something to look forward to at Christmas. I would begin early in the fall to ask for donations, and for the past couple of years I have been supported by a local charity which has given me presents for the younger children.
"Around this time of year my house begins to fill up with all these presents. I sort them out for each of the children and wait till Christmas eve to go around and play Santa.
"Now here’s the story I want to share. Last Christmas Eve my last drop was around 7pm. I was pretty worn out by that time and wanted to go home to my family so I was impatient and perhaps a little grumpy when I knocked on the door.
"I was greeted by an elderly grandma who was caring for five children on her own. She greeted me with such gratitude, appreciation, and warmth that I was a little ashamed that I was feeling impatient and maybe a little short with my greeting. Nonetheless, I was invited in, guided into a tattered, stuffed chair and served cider in a used paper cup while grandma beamed at me and the children danced and jumped up and down with excitement. They kept offering me more cider and showing me the gifts I had just given them. Grandma just kept smiling and refilling my cup and kept thanking me and thanking me.
“At that moment, after all those years of collecting presents for the children at Christmas, I understood what I was actually giving them. I realized that I was providing the opportunity for these poor lonely children to feel loved by someone at Christmas. To feel that someone cared about them. I think even Grandma needed that.
“At this time of year, when families all over the world come together and express their love and concern for one another, I was the only one for these forgotten children. I was the family that was missing in their lives. Their suffering was not from a lack of material goods. They were suffering from a lack of love. No one cared about them. That’s what hurt. That’s why Christmas was a depressing time for them. They didn’t need the trinkets and toys I brought. They just needed me.
“I stayed for a while drinking cup after cup of cider until I thought I would explode. The staying and accepting their gratitude was my gift to them. I didn’t leave until I felt that they had experienced a little of the comfort I felt as a child with my family gathered around me at Christmas.
“That was the gift that the grandma and her five little grandchildren gave to me. They gave me the gift of understanding; they taught me the nature of love."