Week 50 of my comfort zone challenge, one of the most refreshing to date. This week, instead of enjoying Christmas day from the comfort of my own home, I decided to help out the guys at the Surviving Christmas Open Centre.
This amazing charity, organise a place to go, for those living on societies edge on Christmas day and boxing day. As well as this, they deliver presents to selected houses around the Hastings and Rother area for those that may not receive any.
I got to the centre at 9am and not knowing anyone, so there was an awkward half an hour of standing around. The key here is all volunteers want to help out, but not all have jobs to do. One of the main jobs of the volunteers, is to be company. Sounds easy and not a big deal, but as I found it through the day, it really is.
I started the morning by sorting the presents that are going out for delivery, this was my way of feeling like I contributed because I’m not convinced chatting with me is great company for anyone. What I loved about the day, is nobody has any name badges or sense of authority… We’re all equal and can all make the most of the facilities. This wasn’t just a soup kitchen… People were offered a three course meal, free snacks, opportunity to visit the doctor, free clothing, free hair cuts, pedicures and entertainment to keep them occupied. It really was amazing.
Through out the day I got talking to various people, just moving myself about. Not everyone wanted to talk, but those who did seemed to really appreciate the company. I spoke to lots of people, but I just want to share two stories of conversations I had.
Jill came in on a Zimmer frame and immediately sat next to me. She said hello, and introduced herself and without any prompting began to tell me how lonely she was. It was heartbreaking. By circumstance, her dad had a stroke when he was 40, her husband died when she was 60, she has no other family to talk of and company was a rarity. She was just happy to be around people. I tried to take the conversation away from about loneliness, which was harder than I thought it would be, and started to talk about things more positive. The conversation ended with me escorting Jill to the doctor on site, but ended with a thank you like I’ve never had before. I must have been thanked a million times in my life for various bits, but none quite like this. She looked into my eyes, touched my arm and thanked me with real meaning.
Ryan had recently had a brain operation having had a nasty fall. The guy was clearly lucky to be alive and boy did he know it. He seemed genuinely grateful to be alive and appreciated every moment of the day. We shared a conversation about love of dogs, something I can relate too. He told me his dog was his best friend in the world, and how she knew something was up when he came back from hospital. Rather than jumping all over him, she seemed to try and help him. Ryan told me how I should go travelling and enjoy my life in my younger days, because you never know what’s around the corner. I tend to agree with him. It was quite an inspiring conversation.
This day, I believe, is what the Christmas spirit is all about. I love Christmas day with the family as much as anyone but taking 7 hours out of my Christmas day to do this, made me appreciate them 10x more. The people of this charity should be very proud of what they do, because it was a special day to be apart of. I recommend this to anyone, and if you don’t want to give up Christmas day, there are plenty of other days you can help in the build up to Christmas day. Go in with an open mind and you’ll come out with a very unique feeling that is hard to describe.
The day further confirmed that I am supporting a special charity, and makes the hard work of the year feel worthwhile.