Four Christmas’ ago one of our volunteers, Alejandra, wanted to ask every resident at Bradford Manor to share one gift request for Christmas. Bradford Manor is a residence for people with mental and physical challenges and many of them are no longer connected with family of their own.
I joined my mustard seed faith with her noticeably larger faith and we went to the Manor to begin making our first ever ‘Wish List’. We went from room to room knocking on doors and my loving Spanish friend would go to work asking them what they would really like for Christmas. After the resident shared a request I would quickly and somewhat anxiously add that we could not guarantee they would receive their requested item. Then Alejandra would agree and tell them we were going to pray that God would provide for their gift… And then she would ask, “Is there anything else you would like?” I wanted to tell her to cool it but something inside me, or probably Someone in side me, wouldn’t let me discourage her.
The list grew to include gifts requests for over 40 individuals! Items on the list ranged from winter boots and coats to groceries to make a Christmas dinner. We began to pray and share the list with a few local churches in town. We began to get emails and phone calls from people wanting to adopt individuals on the list and by the week before Christmas every name on the list was adopted.
Early in December we had been spending time at the Connection Centre with some of these new friends from the Manor and as Kelsey was playing pool with one older gentleman she simply asked if he was looking forward to Christmas. He tossed his pool cue on the table, and said, “No, I hate Christmas.” When she asked him why, he picked up his cane and said, “Because I’ve got no one to spend it with.” and then walked out the door. As Kels shared this with Patti and I our hearts broke, but since Kelsey and I both had plans to be out of town on Christmas there was nothing we could do. Patti on the other hand, called her parents and asked if they would consider coming up from St. Catharines to have a simple Christmas brunch on December 25 for any of these people who did not have family of their own to spend Christmas with. They said yes.
What was only going to be a simple lunch with egg salad sandwiches (a special request of one of these new friends) quickly turned into a feast of delicious warm brunch dishes and over 20 people from local churches there to help serve.
My plans changed and so I got to be there and my heart was so full I thought it might burst. The best part was when it came time to distribute the gifts. I wish each of you could have been there to see the faces of those receiving them that morning. They opened gifts with their names on them that we’re exactly what they requested, right down to the size and colour. Some seemed shocked, others were in tears but all of them knew that it wasn’t Santa who brought these gifts in the night. It was people who were a part of a larger family who wanted to love like their Father with the resources He provided.
This is now the forth year we have done the Wish List and it has grown to include any of our clients from A Hand Up (the clothing room) and the list currently has over 85 individuals on it, it’s huge! Christmas morning we will be hosting another Christmas brunch and spending time with these sweet people all in an effort to love them like family.
A few weeks ago I was asked if the people on our Wish List were also on the food bank list to receive a hamper. The question was asked out of concern of duplication. I knew the answer right away because a large majority of our clients coming to the clothing room also make use of the food bank. I shared this with the person and after I got off the phone I thought and prayed a lot about it and I believe God spoke to my heart, “Love them like family.”
I have never been concerned that my mother or brother were going to receive too much for Christmas, my heart has always been for them to get exactly what would bless them. Not simply items that they may need, like toiletries, new undergarments or grocery cards. I want to know what they want and if it is in my power to get it for them I will and if I can’t, but let’s say my uncle can, glory! It doesn’t have to have my name on it as the giver, I just want them to receive it. And when it comes to celebrating Christmas it is one thing to host a meal for people leading up to Christmas, but the people I want to spend Christmas Day with are family. That’s why we want so badly to be open for these people on the 25th, so they truly feel loved like family.