My Christmas List

I recently saw the advert on TV for the Coca Cola Christmas Truck. So it’s official – ‘holidays are coming’.

Aside from the bajillion other Christmas-themed adverts which are now everywhere, and the piles of delectable foodstuffs and gifts and wrapping paper and Santas and snowmen and Christmas cards and red-and-green-sparkly-everything, which has begun to bulge the aisles of nearly every shop I enter, it’s now utterly unavoidable – Christmas is well and truly on the way.

Therefore it stands to reason that I’ve had to focus on that thing which crops up every year – eventually put together after a long time thinking and browsing amazon (or trying to recall the items I thought of through the preceding months and mentally tagged with an “I know, I’ll ask for it for Christmas”), then sent around to family in the hopes that they’ll fulfil my wishes for more stuff – The Christmas List.

Only this year, after a short heart-search and a good dose of conviction, it’s really short:

There’s nothing I need.

Christmas List

Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure that if I went through the usual process, I could come up with a bunch of things I’d enjoy – books and shoes and sweets and games and things which light up or sparkle – but this year my heart’s in a different place.

It’s with the people I met last Christmas.

A year ago, I was in an awful, panicking, desolate place. Our expectations of having our first family Christmas at home with our new baby were shattered by the double-whammy of two miscarriages and a subsequent diagnosis of primary infertility for Husby. I was in pieces and couldn’t even bring myself to decorate. Our presents were sent out after Christmas, and we barely scraped ourselves together in time to send cards. I couldn’t go into shops, and listening to Christmas songs on the radio made me cry bitter, heartbroken tears of resentment for the juxtaposition of what was versus what ‘should have been’.

I decided that I couldn’t spend Christmas day at home, or at the home of anyone who was ‘doing’ Christmas, so instead we would go to a local homeless shelter and serve Christmas dinner and hand out presents and (well-faked) holiday spirit, and take the opportunity to work out our pain (well, mine) by making Good Things happen for other people. Husby, bless his heart, went along with the whole thing for my sake.

It wasn’t a particularly noble thing, though the outcome was good – it was a convenient escape. I spent the day smiling on the outside, with agony in my heart, but gradually the doing of Good Things worked its magic, and seeing people who otherwise would have been hungry and cold and lonely, well-fed, warm, enjoying themselves and spending time with other people…it warmed my spirit and started to heal me.

Good for me, right?

Wrong – it’s proven to be a case of ‘can open, worms everywhere’ – because that experience; the unpalatable things I learned about homelessness, the people I interacted with, the smiles I shared and the delight I discovered in ‘giving up’ my Christmas for the sake of a section of society most usually ignored and marginalised, allowed those people to step out from the margins and into the reality of my internal world.

They’ve stopped being ‘the homeless’ and have become ‘people’. Individuals with families, friends, complex emotional lives, challenges, triumphs, dreams, desires, regrets, stories…

They matter, and that’s left me with some uncomfortable and absolutely unavoidable knowledge:

They need a LOT.

In my mind, I looked around at my life and my wants and desires, and all I could see was abundance and plenty – the polar opposite to those people I met last year, for whom warm socks and toiletries were so important; for whom positive social interaction where they were treated as humans worthy of someone’s time and input was a treat, rather than a regular occurrence; for whom a few hours in a heated hall and a hot meal were a shining pinnacle of luxury.

I realised that if my heart was to rest easy within me on Christmas day, there was only one thing I could ask for: that instead of presents, my family and friends would send donations to charities which help these poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, and to beg their indulgence in allowing us to send them a token present* and donate the rest of the money we would have spent on them.

When I started explaining, my mum remarked “Oh, we were going to give you money towards your trip to America”, and I nearly wavered, because I do really, really want to be able to make that trip. But I couldn’t go back on what my heart was telling me – not even for that.

So this year, I hope that there will be decorations and maybe a small tree, and Christmas music, and family and friends and love and laughter and probably too much food…but when I look out of the window to the cold and the dark, and think of those people whose poverty deprives them of the wonderful celebratory experience I get to take for granted, I will know that at least I’ve done *something* to help.

I can’t think of a better gift.

I just want you to know that I’m not sharing this to try to preach or to say you shouldn’t enjoy your Christmas precisely how you want to. I’m not trying to portray myself as any kind of saintly person or paragon of any kind of virtue. All I want to do is raise a bit of awareness and share my own story; my own take on this matter of Christmas. If it speaks to your heart, then please do join in by finding a local charity which supports the homeless and making a donation to them.

*In the spirit of transparency: we’ll probably still get something bigger for Niece and Neff, because they’re not really old enough to understand the point of what we’re doing, and ‘Presents at Christmas’ is a Big Deal to little kids.

Transparency #2 – these are the charities we plan to donate to – Southampton City and Region Action To Combat Hardship; and Crisis. We’re also going back to the homeless shelter to serve food and join in the fun, but on boxing day this time, instead – just so you know I’m not all talk and no action.

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66 thoughts on “My Christmas List

  1. This was touching, I love that you found a way to help others…even as your own pain was overwhelming you.

    I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I often find myself in awe of how much it affects the emotions. People are either on a grand high or a depressive low during the holidays. I hope everyone has a nice, safe holiday this year, whether you are celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah.

    And when you come to America, let me know where you’ll be. Cause I’m going to come find you! I feel like we’ve talked an awful lot and I still haven’t got to hear that accent;)

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    • The helping started to heal me. I needed it. I need it more often than not – to know that I can bring a measure of light to others seems to make my darknesses less awful.

      I think Christmas is entirely overhyped and lost in tinsel and chocolate, which is sad. I want to find it again – in love and compassion and giving.

      When I come to America, I’ll let you know – we should try to find each other on Facebook, and I can send you a ‘voice’. Alternatively, there’s a ‘vlogs’ tag somewhere over there >>>

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      • I love that…you want to “find it again.” That’s wonderful. I’m Jewish, we still celebrate, but it’s not the big media/retail/commercial blowout that Christmas is. I think you’ve certainly reclaimed a bit of the giving and compassion already.

        I will have to come back when I’m not at work and look for the vlog:) My coworkers would probably wonder what I was doing LOL

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well…fabulous. You’re officially the fifth Jewish person I officially know (or, at least, who I know is Jewish). Last year, one of my friends wrote about her faith and it was fascinating. I really enjoyed reading about it and learning her views.

          I will always try to reclaim the giving and the compassion – it’s just where my heart’s at. I kind of want to bring everyone with me and point to it and show them “LOOK! THERE it is!”

          Let me know what you think when you find me on video – I’m pretty goofy 🙂

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          • I’m happy to be a Jewish person you know! I hope I leave a good impression on behalf of all Jews online;) haha

            I’m sure you are setting an example for many people this season. There’s certainly more I could be doing…I have no excuse.

            It is always a pleasure talking to you:)

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I think what you are doing is a beautiful idea. I remember for my 30th a girlfriend made a donation to Oxfam instead of a present for me and I loved that she did that.
    You have the true Christmas spirit!

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    • Thank you – I try to. It’s one of those things which has really been preying on my mind.

      It sounds as though your girlfriend has a very generous, giving spirit too, and you – for loving her gift. I definitely think that in times of plenty, there is so much happiness to be found in sharing some of the abundance. 🙂

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  3. Lizzi, you are all heart (and some bones and skin and stuff) but ALL heart. I am so moved by how you consistently fight for soul awareness and changes of heart.

    I am humbled to know you, friend. Truly.

    Truth wins,
    Dani

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I finally made it!!! So glad that I did, This post is beyond beautiful. YOU…are beautiful. It is as simple as that. I don’t have a lot and there are days were I wished that I had so much more (in terms of money), only so I could give it away to the ones that truly need it. It breaks my heart to know that this way of living still exists in a world like today. I recall a video, well I’ve seen more videos, but this was one of the first I saw floating around the web, it was one where people could buy a “suspended coffee” for the ones who lived on the streets. Every now and then, a less fortunate individual would come in the shop and ask if there was a suspended coffee. If there was one, they could have a coffee and a bit of warmth…

    I couldn’t stop crying. The thought behind this is beautiful, but the fact that it is needed broke my heart.

    Christmas for me is aimed at making others happy, because personally, I don’t need much at all to be happy. The world will only be a better place if you are willing to make a difference and you, my dear Sparkle, you are making a huge difference. 🙂

    Xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am reminded so much of the phrase “be the change you want to see”, and I think it’s such an important thing to take on board – we humans are all responsible, in some measure, for each other. We’re all kin, and if only we could see that each other person is our brother or sister, and treat them as such…our world would be transformed.

      It breaks my heart too, that such a system is needed. It breaks my heart more that so many people wouldn’t think to buy into it. Or that they wouldn’t consider the person on the street. We seem to be societally geared towards ignoring, discounting or otherwise dehumanising certain sectors, and the homeless certainly seem to be one of those sectors.

      Bless your heart, Apfel, for wishing for more so that you could give it away. That’s a beautiful sentiment, and your soul is golden and shiny for thinking it. I’m impressed to hear you say you don’t need much to be happy – I’m afraid I seem to need an awful lot to be happy, when I think about it. I am content…whilst I am in luxury, and amidst all the abundance I enjoy on a daily basis.

      I’m glad to be making a difference though, and I know it WILL help some people, and that is perfect. I shall be very content with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aww that phrase is just perfect. Humans create each other and even though we love to see ourselves as an individual, we are responsible for the ones we put on earth. We will always need each other.

        A few weeks ago, I was on my way home with my sister and we were in the metro. A man went around and asked if people could spare some change so he could sleep in a center. No one, seriously no one looked at home or had some change. I had no money on me and I felt so bad. The only thing I could do was to look him in the eyes, smile and wish him luck. You could see the kindness in his eyes. It’s so not fair. And one lady who was sitting in front of me, started to gossip to the man next her. She even did a little laugh and shook her head. I couldn’t say anything, but gave her the stare (yes, I have a stare hehe) as it was incredibly rude.

        I learned over the years that I was happier with less than when I was surrounded by more things. I easily feel spoiled. My happiness lies in seeing other people smile or seeing colourful leaves in the trees…it’s hidden in very mundane and daily things. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You are such a wonderful person, Lizzi, always thinking about others! I picked a wish off one of the “make a wish”-trees where disadvantaged kids can place a wish for the holidays. Lily and I went shopping together to get the gift and then wrapped it together. While making the holidays better for someone else, Lily and I also enjoyed the gift of spending true quality time together!

    I agree that at this point in life, I don’t really “want” anything really any more most of the time. We do need a new dryer, and we’re going to purchase it next week and hope to have it here pretty soon. And we’re going to adopt a kitty shortly after the holidays. That’s what I want this year 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • The dryer is different though, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s arguably a luxury item, but in all honesty, for a family of five in a modern-paced world, it’s going to be well used and hugely functional. I like that you’re going to adopt a kitty though. Adoption is always good, whether it’s animals or people 🙂 Show want for the unwanted – that’s important.

      I LOVE that the gift you gave also gave you and Lily a gift in return. That’s such an awesome way of looking at it 😀 That’s brilliant.I’m glad you had that 🙂

      Like

  6. This. This is why you’re special and why I adore you to pieces and pieces and pieces. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again: you exude warmth and joy, and are one of THE most generous, kind, loving souls I’ve ever known. *hugging you so hard it hurts but I don’t care*

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kayso I just read this about six times and … well, we’ve talked elsewhere about how *I* feel and – yeah, I’m glad you like this so much and I’m surrounded by a big ol’ *twinklysparklyglow* from your words and don’t mind saying that all of my pieces and pieces (and pieces – that’s a lot) are so happy to the middlest middle because you.

      *hugs back, hard* 😀

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  7. I will echo what Scott said. You have a beautiful heart. And though you qualify every good thing you do with brutal honesty about your shortcomings, it only makes us see more clearly your beautiful heart. I’m honored to know you and call you a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I only hope to inspire…I don’t do it for admiration, because I think that the people I’m friends with would be my friends anyway, but I was challenged to share this in spite of my concerns that I’d come across as preachy or attempting to be saintly, because I was told that it might give other people good ideas which they could use, too. So I hit publish and I panicked, and thank goodness, it’s been well received by everyone who stopped to comment. Which is amazing and wonderful.

      And yes – I will always try to provide equilibrium because I KNOW I’m not that good of a person – I just do my best, SOMETIMES, but those are the bits I write about, and it would be easy to misrepresent myself…if that makes sense.

      But thank you for your beautiful comment and the sentiment and spirit of friendship behind it, G – I’m honoured to call you the same 🙂

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  9. This is the best Christmas list ever. I work with the homeless in my community at my regular job every day and I still find it hard to wrap my mind around what it is truly like for them. It’s beautiful to read something that portrays them as people, because I hear a lot of attitudes suggesting that they have chosen this life for themselves and misconceptions about how it can be easily changed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • *sigh* how easy it is for people to justify their lack of compassion with excuses they tell themselves. Ohhh that makes me sad. I imagine it’s the WORST kind of catch-22 to be in – so many can’t get jobs because of not having a permanent address, and they can’t get an address without a job to earn money, and THEN what…!!! Honestly, it boggles the mind and BAFFLES ME as to how we, in the western world, can so stubbornly ignore those in our OWN CITIES who need help.

      SO…I’ve totally missed what it is that you do! How remiss of me! I am fascinated to learn more…will you tell me? Or have you written about it already? It makes me so happy that you have such a similar outlook on this subject 🙂

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    • OHHHH here you are 🙂 It’s so nice to see you again – I was thinking about you today and that I’d pop over and say hi somewhere…and you beat me to it 🙂 And thank you…I am about to read what you’ve pinged me back to, but I hope you’ve linked your story (or will point me in the right direction).

      I’m so glad I met you, too 🙂 It’s a good ol place, this Internet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have been so busy with NaNo that I have been a bit lax on commenting but I have been reading. Promise!
        As for my story, it isn’t written down. So, I’ll give you the summary. Nov. 23rd last year was when my dad passed away from pancreatic cancer. It knocked me for a loop even though I knew it was coming. I was in danger of spiraling into a depression when an opportunity came to do for someone else who really needed it. An old high school friend fell into serious hard times. She lost her husband and her mother weeks apart last year. She had just been getting by as it was. He had no insurance, she had no job, and their son was 7. They were not going to have any kind of Christmas. One woman I knew from school simply asked everyone on our class alumni list to simply send prayers and positive thoughts out. The next thing we know a surprise party was planned and everyone got involved to help find her a new place to live (her place was almost literally a shack and she was about to be kicked out of it), we helped get clothes for her and her son, and within a month she had a job which she had not been able to get previously. But someone put in a good word for her. It was a big thing. But in helping her, it helped me. Like you though, it made me aware of how many others need help. Not that I really needed that. I grew up poor, nearly homeless once. I know what it is to need food and clothing and how appreciative people are when they get something we take for granted.
        I seriously would like to start an organization called A Hand Up because some people don’t need hand-outs. There’s plenty of those around here. Some people just need a hand up, a little help to get them on their feet.

        Liked by 1 person

        • See if you can make it happen – it sounds AMAZING. I know that’s the slogan for the Big Issue – the homeless magazine I buy “A hand up, not a hand-out”. I love the idea.

          And yes – I’ve discovered REPEATEDLY (because I am slow to learn) that when I’m in most pain, the thing which heals me more than anything is to help other people or do something nice for them. I wonder if that’s how we’re meant to be 🙂

          But WOW to your story – that’s SO AWESOME. Not the people dying, because that’s painful and it sucks, but the helping and the level of motivation people had to get involved and DO something. Incredible.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. This is truly stunning. I love this. I do a lot of giving during the year but most especially at the holidays. We are so blessed and I can’t stand the thought of others being in need and the children…that’s the hardest for me. I even get my kids involved. I want them to realize how very fortunate they are and how important it is to give. I love your plan for the holiday. XX

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes – that there are children at Christmas who go without even a present, and their parents might have nothing to eat so that the kids can…in my city. In 21st century England. It’s abhorrent. And I will NOT let it happen without a fight and without DOING something about it. SCRATCH (one of the charities up there) run a ‘Christmas Complete’ drive, where they take donations of gifts and make up packages of gifts for the children in my city who would otherwise have none. I LOVE that they do this, and I can’t wait to support them.

      Bless your heart, DA, for taking care of others so much, and for being such a quiet champion for so many causes. Your soul is all bright and shiny to me, and I would hug you HUGE if I could.

      Like

  13. I applaud you Lizzi. My daughter did much the same thing. She adopted a family for Christmas and asked for donations instead of presents. I’m so proud of that. There are unrealistic expectations sometimes at Christmas and real selfless giving is so fulfilling. It IS better to give than receive

    Liked by 1 person

    • She adopted a whole family? That’s incredible. What a wonderful thing she did. I’m so glad – I hope it bought her lots of happiness and joy to do such an amazing thing for them 🙂 And it’s so nice that you’re proud of her for it.

      It’s definitely better to give than to receive, especially (for me) in the face of such need…I just can’t. My heart’s been AT me on this and it won’t let me rest.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. We have done this for some time… I just cant see the point in adding to STUFF…. No one has ever complained so kudos to them. If we do give gifts to adults (fam and friends) its handmade and to children like you niece and neph we purchase something. It all works really nicely… I think you will enjoy it…. good luck with it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome. I like that idea of doing something handmade – that’s our plan for our token gifts, so YAY 😀 Glad to follow in your footsteps – that makes me think we’re REALLY on the right track 🙂

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  15. Christmas is hard for a lot of people and for various reasons. It’s supposed to be cheerful dusted with glitter and wrapped with red and green garland and we are expected to be immersed in all the magic that the holiday has to offer. If you’re depressed or going through a hardship, forcing yourself to be that “Hallmark” card person that the holiday wants you to be will you make it worse.
    In your suffering, you chose to bring hope to those people who may not have it underneath the labels that society has put on them. A small gesture, the gift of basic needs, can go so far. You are a good person and are setting a good example.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen to that – trying to fit the sparkly-festive mold is just NOT gonna happen for some, and that’s not only explainable, it also needs to be OKAY, because it sucks that anyone should go through the season feel like a Scrooge for not ‘feeling it’, when it’s meant to be the season of goodwill to all – like, what – you only get good will towards you if you’re happy? NOT cool.

      Thank you – I value your support and your understanding, my friend 🙂

      Like

  16. Oh Lizzi, what an ass I am sometimes, I guess people do really meet as strangers even when we think we know them. I am sitting here bawling as think about how you must have felt last Christmas and realize that for entirely different reasons it is how I am feeling this year. I have been struggling to put two words together for the last month and trying to find some kind of meaning in my life. Things get all topsy turvy and you just can’t seem to figure out which way is up and I know I am babbling and not making much sense but feel like for the first time in a very long time I have a direction to at least start to head. I had just had this conversation with the hubby last week. I can’t do Christmas, I can’t be cheery and act like all the world is a wonderful place because it’s not. It’s dark, and scary and sometimes even seems hopeless. I don’t want to be with my family and friends and ruin a lovely time for them and like your wonderful hubby he will follow me anywhere. Maybe this is what I have been needing and having just talked about doing this the coming season I am going to take this as a sign that maybe I’m not as lost as I feel. So I will do it in honor of you and so that maybe I will find myself again in all of the lost and wounded.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh, Lizzi. You’ve got such a huge heart & are such an inspiration to others. What a courageous soul you have! I love that you posted this & I LOVE, love, LOVE that it is early enough in the ‘holiday season’ to reach a few people before the chaos of it all settles in. 😉 This is SUCH a genuinely good message to be sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think so…I’m making sure that I have peace in my heart, even if not all the edges are smooth, and all the things aren’t whole and unbroken 🙂 It will be okay 😀

      And thanks…I’m glad to know you like reading my posts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can only hope so…I know I take the whole ‘together we’re stronger’ thing quite seriously, but truly, I believe we all belong to each other, and all have some responsibility towards our fellow human beings…perhaps that makes me an idealist or a bit of a head-in-the-clouds type, but I’ll do my best to help as many as I can, and if I can inspire other people along the way then I’ll do my utmost.

      Thank you for your encouragement 🙂 It means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!! You KNOW I love every single THING about this post, your mission, and YOUR HEART!!!! You are on FIRE girl!!!!! I am SO deeply touched by your beautiful giving ‘movement’ to step outside of comfort and wants- and reach toward needs and needy. I am sharing this everywhere, in hopes that you – can make a difference in inspiring others to do the same.

    Well done, my friend. ~ Me

    “WELL done my good and faithful servant.”~ God

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bless your boots, Kitty. Thank you so much for cheering me on and supporting this and sharing it and…all the things you do which inspire me to be better and live a bit more out loud on this kind of thing. Thank you.

      I hope…I dunno – I guess I just hope to make a difference, and yes – to inspire others for the good of those who might otherwise be forgotten.

      They’re on my heart, those homeless.

      Like

  19. I think the only thing that could be worse than last Christmas is this one coming up… But you’ve given me some new inspiration to change what I thought was inevitable. Thank you for that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well…awesome! I’m really glad. There’s nothing worse than dreading Christmas because (as I found last year, when I hated everything to do with it) it really is fucking EVERYWHERE, and gets cloying and inescapable even when you don’t mind it. When you’re not in the mood for it, or when it hurts your heart, it’s intolerable. I can quite see why people get into such low moods this season – it’s like being hit by a battering ram. Every moment is a minefield with another song or scene or something to scratch your eyes out with festive cheer.

      *sigh*

      If you can turn it around, then BRILLIANT. And kudos to you. I shall be cheering you on 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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