The Christmas Baskets went out on Saturday morning. Sixty-four needy families in my neighborhood received all of the groceries they will need to cook their Christmas dinner. The children each got a few presents, too. That’s sixty four merry Christmases.
The thing about working with a food-based charity like Saint Vincent de Paul, the thing that keeps me going, at this time of year in particular when I’m exhausted, is the knowledge that we are meeting people’s most basic needs. Everyone needs to eat. Parents need food to put on the table for their children. Getting food from people who can afford to share to those who need help is as simple and vital as can be.
In the years that I’ve been coordinating this project, I think I’ve seen it all–every kind of near disaster from snowstorms on delivery day to cranky donors (they’re human after all), from missing presents to missing volunteers. And every kind of generosity. Sponsors who reliably donate meals every year, volunteers who give up precious time during the busy holiday season, the local businessman/saint who donates pallets of fruits and vegetables.
This Christmas it’s one of our clients that I keep coming back to, when I think about generosity. She’s a disabled woman, living alone in a subsidized apartment building. We’ll call her Jane. When Jane’s Thanksgiving basket was delivered, she asked whether SVDP could help her neighbor who had very little food–a blind woman who speaks almost no English, only Mandarin. The volunteers came back and put a box together for her from our food pantry.
Last week, before the Christmas baskets went out, I called Jane. She said that if SVDP could deliver a Christmas basket for her neighbor too, she would take it to her, and help her identify what was in each can or package of food before putting it away. “I try to look out for her the best I can,” she said. When the volunteers showed up at her apartment with the two Christmas baskets, Jane mentioned how much she appreciated the food we provided, because in addition to helping her blind neighbor, she had invited a few other shut-in neighbors from the building over for Christmas dinner. Seven of them. “They don’t have families,” she said.
Well, when the volunteers came back with that story, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of getting baskets loaded up and delivered, I had to stop for a minute. We had delivered a relatively small basket to Jane–really just enough for her, and maybe it would stretch to feed one other person. A small turkey roast, stuffing mix, a pie, some canned goods and a few fruits and vegetables.
I called Jane up. “I hear you are cooking for a few neighbors this year,” I said. “Could you use some more food?” “Oh, that would be wonderful,” Jane said. “Thank you!”
Back out into the cold morning those volunteers went, with smiles on their faces, carrying boxes and bags of food for Jane and her Christmas guests. I like to imagine all eight of them, crowded into a small space perhaps, but enjoying the warmth of friendship and a holiday meal made with love.
Before I head off for my own holiday, I wanted to share this little gift with all of you–this story about a woman who exemplifies the spirit of the season.Merry Christmas! Love,