This could possibly be the best Christmas ever. I finally did something I have always thought about, but never did until now. Today I volunteered in a soup kitchen in downtown Toronto. Last year, I did a lot of self reflecting. What is Christmas all about? It’s supposed to be a time of year to spread love, joy and good tidings. It’s a time of year to spend with loved ones. Usually Christmas for me is rather routine. Going to my parents’ home where I enjoy a big meal, a couple glasses of wine and exchange presents, but I began to think that there had to be more to Christmas than eating and drinking. What about those who have no family home to visit or loved ones to be with?
After researching volunteering opportunities on the Internet, I came across a place called Sacre-Coeur Anglican church where in the humble surroundings of the church basement, dedicated volunteers serve meals to those who are homeless or simply in need. Upon arrival, Andy and I signed in and were given a number and waited to be called to serve the meals or help out in the dining area. While waiting in the dining area for our number, I looked at all the faces who are in need of a meal or friendly conversation. There were a lot of faces. As Andy said, “this really makes you realize just how rough life can be.” Some were elderly, some were youths, others came with bags of all their worldly possessions on their backs. For some folks, the holiday season is the most lonely time of the year. One emaciated young man sat in the very back of the room with a pensive look on his face. Had he lost his job or family this Christmas? Was he suffering from substance abuse or a mental illness? How could I possibly eat, drink and be merry every Christmas in the warmth of my family’s company and not consider the vulnerable in our community? When our number was called I worked at the salad station, dishing out pasta and potato salad. Andy handed out the plates and cutlery. When the same young man came to my station and motioned to the salad, I was able to say, “have a very Merry Christmas. God bless.” With a grin, he gave me a kind nod. That grin lifted my heart. I left the little Church in the heart of downtown Toronto, where needles and bottles of alcohol are seen in the gutters, finally experiencing what the true meaning of Christmas is. Through the chill of December’s cold breath, I felt very warm. I felt happy, and judging from Andy’s smile and talking about doing it again next year, I know he was happy too. Happy to be a little part of truly spreading good tidings to those whom need it most.