Christmas can be a difficult time, but hundreds of people across the region have a heart to help. Carolyn Millet reports on acts of Christmastime kindness in the New England.
IT’S ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ – or at least, it’s supposed to be: holidays, family, gifts, kids, Santa, feasts and Christmas carols. But while some of us also stress about work deadlines, food for the guests, or the shopping crowds, some grieve over deaths, wonder how they'll feed the kids or feel even more alone than usual.
But every year, generous and thoughtful people see the heartache others might be facing, and find some unique ways to help.
Last-minute Christmas shopping stress was at a high in Peel St today at noon, crowds and traffic no doubt causing a spike in blood pressure for many.
But in the middle of the throng were some friendly faces offering a gift; a reminder of the importance of treating ourselves and each other well.
Tamworth woman Chantelle Sims – the creator of a local Facebook page sharing and encouraging random acts of kindness – and fellow ‘RAKtivists’ were handing out flowers.
The flowers, and money to buy more, were donated; one person alone gave $100 towards the final total of $320.
“I really wanted people to slow down and think of their mental wellness and be kind – kindness is the best gift you can give,” Chantelle said.
Most passersby seemed touched and grateful to receive the blooms, and one young man even jumped out the back of a car stuck at the intersection to grab a flower for his mum in the passenger seat.
Tomorrow morning, Isabelle Daley will visit BUPA Aged Care in Tamworth to give handmade gifts to elderly residents who might not receive visitors this Christmas.
Isabelle’s only 16, but she runs a business called Succulent City, going to markets to sell upcycled crockery filled with succulents and decorative stones.
She’d been chatting with her grandmother when she had the idea.
“I was thinking about how many other people there are who don’t have anyone, so if I can give them a bit of happiness, then it’s worth it,” she said.
MORE THAN LUNCH
In Armidale on Christmas Day, the Uniting Church will hold its 25th community Christmas lunch.
Organiser Martin Hazell said more than 400 people had turned up for previous events, and told an incredible story of the impact one shared meal can have.
“One year we had a call-out for a potential suicide, while we were serving the drinks and nibbles,” he said.
“The minister’s husband and myself went out to talk to him and eventually we talked him into coming to the lunch – and it just turned his life around completely ...
“It was the right time for him to sit down and enjoy lunch with a whole bunch of people, and he hasn’t drunk ever since.”
“[We've] been in that position before where we’ve been on the receiving end ... so we wanted to give back when we could.”- Luke Woods
A request to help “bless a family” this Christmas led to the Salvos in Gunnedah receiving almost double the support they’d hoped for.
They’d asked people to sign up for some family-to-family help: to donate toys and food to be be made into a hamper for one of 10 local families, identified by the children’s gender and age only.
‘Boy 4 years old and boy 6 years old’, ‘Boy 11 years old, boy 8 years old and girl 1 year old’, ‘Girl 9 years old, boy 8 years old, and boy 1 year old’ – the list is all the more saddening for its matter-of-factness.
But just half an hour after the story appeared on the Namoi Valley Independent website, Gunnedah business ACS Equip offered to sponsor all 10 families, meaning the Salvos were able to match seven more.
Owner Luke Woods said he and his wife, Kailynn, had had a good year but had been “in that position before where we’ve been on the receiving end”.
“We know what it feels like, so we wanted to give back when we could.”
Mrs Woods said: “We know what our kids are getting [for Christmas] and know there are kids who might not get given anything at all, which is heartbreaking.”
For each family, the Woodses prepared a large bag of food and personal hygiene items, another filled with toys, and a tub full of extra food and heavier items.
In a unique twist on the Christmas tradition, children from Inverell and District Family Day Care have brought in donations of food and toys every day in December as part of a reverse advent calendar.
Service manager Lisa Szumowski said she thought it was important to teach children to help others in need.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are – it’s learning the joy of giving, not just receiving” was the sign on one box when the daycare dropped the first donations to the Salvation Army Family Store on December 14.
“We just felt that we had so many needy families, especially in our area, so we just wanted to offer our help,” Lisa said.
“Children are children and they all should have the opportunity to experience the joy of Christmas.”
Salvation Army captain Alana Mills said the organisation had “noticed the extra pressure this year” on families, and the daycare’s generosity was “invaluable”.
“We know that this food is going to be really well used in the next few days,” she said.
“In fact, it will probably be gone within the first 10 minutes when we reopen again.”
Lisa said: “It might not seem like much, but if we can give a little, it’ll mean so much to everyone, hopefully.”
SIMPLE ACT, BIG IMPACT
If you been so busy, stressed and distracted that you haven’t found a way to help others this Christmas, it’s not too late and it’s not too hard:
- Wave someone into your lane of traffic or ahead of you at the checkout
- Pay forward a coffee or some fuel
- Place a gift under the Kmart Wishing Tree – it can even be non-perishable food – right up until 5pm Christmas Eve
- Back at your car well before your parking ticket expires? Give it to someone just pulling in