This morning, I had my eyes opened just a bit wider. Surgery, you ask? Nope, but something better. Today was the day that our office's year-long charity drive started all over again.
At Century 21 Millennium, all of our real estate agents pay a piddly amount every month (equal to 1 medium coffee a week at Tim Hortons) towards our charity drive. At the end of the year, we have a rather nice sum banked that we use to bring what I think is the true meaning of Christmas to a family. This year, we were able to help 13 families in need. We work with a few of the elementary schools here in Brampton, and each school chooses a couple of families that they know need a little help to survive the Christmas period.
The families are chosen by the teachers and principals at school. They see so much more than we might think, and I'm grateful to the teachers and school staff for knowing what's going on and choosing so wisely. We've helped families where a child has cystic fibrosis, or the kids are being raised by elderly grandparents because the natural parents died, or single-parent families where the parent has a terminal illness, etc.
We are given some basic details about the family i.e. is there 1 child or 4 children, their ages, etc. Then, we go shopping and buy mostly necessities i.e. a winter coat, snowboots, running shoes - whatever their teachers have noticed they lack. Of course, we get them a few treats i.e. a couple of toys, some goodies for a stocking - and yes, we buy the stocking, too. We also buy them a huge amount of food to last at least a couple of weeks, including a turkey, a ham, and some basic staples like sugar, flour, canned goods, pasta, etc.
Normally, we never meet the children or the family - I think it's better when a gift is anonymous, without pre-conditions. But today, we were asked to deliver the gifts for one family to their home. Only the dad was home, he'd been laid off from his job a few weeks ago. He had asked us to deliver the gifts & food to their home because he wanted to thank us personally. He was dressed in a coat and hat indoors because the heat was turned way down to save money. He didn't say much because I think he might have been a bit embarassed, but you could read how grateful he was feeling in his eyes. I think our actions made a difference for his family, but also for his own self esteem. How do I know? As we were driving down the street on our way to the next school, I saw him on his front step, tears streaming down his face in gratitude.
So now, as I sit here typing this blog, tears are streaming down my face as I remember his reaction to what I think is such a simple way to love thy neighbour. I'm not a religious man - it's never been part of my life and probably won't be in the future. But today, I felt the true meaning of Christmas.
How fortunate most of us are.