The gift of self giving

Several years ago I had a co-worker who spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas morning passing out meals to the homeless in New York City. She and her daughter made it an annual event. At the time I was in awe that she didn’t have family to spend the day with. To be honest, I felt bad for her.
It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the need to give to those less fortunate. I enjoy visiting nursing homes and soup kitchens. There is something fulfilling and rewarding about giving your time completely to another without expecting something in return. But it wasn’t until I moved to Boston, that I realized the great joy there is in the gift of self-giving especially at the holidays.
Last year, some friends and I began bringing holiday meals to home-bound elders in the area. We bring the carefully prepared packages and spent at least an hour with these often lonely individuals on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. The first time, I was honestly nervous as I entered the unknown apartment of a stranger. But the look of joy that crosses their faces when they open the bag of goodies or the stories they share of growing up decades before I was born, both served to put me at ease. Now each holiday the group of friends who join together to do this seems to grow. And all sorts come out to give a little love. The person who seems to have the eternal chip on her shoulder, and the one who is so wrapped up in schoolwork he doesn’t know life exists outside of books – they all set that aside for a few hours during the holidays to think of another.
Here in Boston, we deliver meals through an organization called Little Brothers. It was started in France in 1946 and has since spread to several countries, including Portugal, Poland, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany and Canada. Their motto is ‘flowers before bread’ as a way of acknowledging that people need love an affection as well as daily nourishment.
I suppose this is all to say – if you have the chance, go ahead and give away a couple of those holiday hours previously reserved for family and friends. It will brighten the lives of those who are without such gifts.


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