By Bruce Murray
When I was a young pre-teen we lived in a small community in northern British Columbia. My father worked for the federal government, so we lived in government housing — along with other families that had similar employment. There were no local stores where we lived, so most items including food, clothing and Christmas presents were ordered by way of a catalogue and delivered by truck.
This presented an opportunity for me and I became the local representative for Regal Cards. Several times a year I would receive, in the mail, catalogues of the items they had available. The largest offering was around Christmas. I would take the catalogues and go door to door around the community showing mostly the ladies what Regal Cards had to offer. The products were of good quality, the prices fair and as I had little competition I would usually get an order including pre-payment from each home.
Once I had accumulated sufficient orders I would mail the list to Regal, along with payment and they would then send the order to me. I would separate the large order into individual orders and deliver them to my customers. This delivery often lead to a repeat order or other items they had forgotten the first time around. I became very successful in selling these products, as I learned what to say and how to describe the items in a positive manner. I also learned personal service was really appreciated.
This time of year was a real money-maker for me, but I began to forget what Christmas was all about. It had become time to make money and nothing more.
One evening, shortly before Christmas, my father came to the family and told us the truck delivering food and gifts to a small First Nations community nearby had crashed and everything it was carrying had been lost. He and some others in our community proposed we all take some of our gifts and food and help them out, so they would have something for Christmas. He suggested we each donate one gift he and mother would select.
In principal I thought this was a good idea but was worried about what I might be giving up. I did not know any of these people and hoped my parents would not give away any really good presents. I grudgingly agreed to participate.
The next day my dad asked me to help load the car and travel with him to deliver the food and gifts. Talk about rubbing salt in a wound but you don’t say no to dad.
As we loaded the car I tried to determine what gift I had “donated,” but no luck. We joined up with a couple of other vehicles that were also delivering items and travelled the snowy roads to an area I had never seen before.
What a shock. I had no idea people could live in cabins and tents in the winter. It was even more sobering to see how little these folks had in the way of material possessions. They were so grateful for the food and gifts and tried to share what little they had with us.
Even today, as I think back about that experience, I can recall how sad I felt for these people. They had lost their Christmas. Our helping gesture had little impact on our Christmas but meant everything to them.
My parents never told me what gift of mine they gave away but somehow it no longer mattered. That Christmas changed me. I never again gloated about how much money I earned, nor did I ever again begrudge sharing with those less fortunate.
Today, as we celebrate Christmas, let us all remember what it really means and reach out to those that need help. Be generous and if it means a small sacrifice, don’t hesitate, it’s worth it.
I wish all a very Merry Christmas.