I realize I don’t usually write a formal thank you for my Christmas gifts, but this year required something special. You gave me a most precious gift this year.
When I decided to stop by the shelter for the Christmas party, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I felt a little uneasy at first, not sure how I would fit in. After all, it had been a couple of years since I stayed there. Although I still feel a part of every person there, I have a new life. Although I know and love the staff so well, I’m not really one of them either, but as I began speaking to the other people at the party, I was very surprised to find that many of them had been out of the shelter even longer than I had.
Santa, you will remember me as that little kid who always had to know the “Why?” of everything. There are some things even “middle-age crisis” can’t change. I needed to understand why we all came back, and it didn’t take me very long to figure it out.
I thought about my pre-shelter holidays. When most families were looking forward to those times with happy anticipation. I, like so many others, was full of fear and dread.
The holidays were always a particularly bad time: the increased financial pressure of the expected “commercialized Christmas ” in our society, the many parties and festivities, which only provide a showcase for abusive behavior, the added opportunities to use alcohol as an excuse for out-of-control violence, the secret knowledge of how different your holidays are from the “norm”, the feeling that what joy you may have felt in your celebration of faith and love could not be shared with someone close to you, etc., etc. All these things added to the already unbearable atmosphere of stress and fear, and were accompanied by an increase in violent episodes. Also of course, was the strain of trying to provide a peaceful Christmas for the children.
As I sat in the living room of the shelter, much quieter than I usually am, I thought about the other side of Christmas, and what it traditionally represents: peace, joy, a sense of family, celebration, coming home, sharing warmth and love. It was then that I understood why so many of us had come back. I spent one night at the shelter, during the Holidays. It was the first time in many years that I was able to sense all of those things again.
I am sure it was the same for the other people as well. It is something I feel whenever I return there, no matter what season it may be. It is a Christmas gift that I will carry in my heart forever.
-Bonnie, former JBWS client