I hope you forgive me for some reminiscing in this post. Hopefully it links back to education at some point!
Ever since I was little, December has always been my favourite month. Growing up it had this magical feeling with the first snow fall, the twinkle lights, the family gatherings. As the courses have come to an end this semester, I have been thinking of some of my favourite Christmas memories. I have the worst memory (to the point I fact checked the below with my parents) and often can only remember single snapshots. Most of those images are from December with Swiss Christmas markets or chestnuts roasting on an open fire in Rome. There are three that have taught me invaluable lessons.
St. Nicholas Day
In Germany and Switzerland St. Nick (aka Santa) doesn’t come on the 25th, he stops in on December 6th to fill your shoe with goodies. The night before you leave your boot outside (more room to fill) and excitedly check your shoe in the morning. We were living right off the Rhein river in Busingen in an apartment that was probably too small for a family of 5. I didn’t expect much. So you could imagine our surprise when we opened the door to see our boots overflowing. Someone in the building had taken it upon themselves to brighten our day just a bit, with out ever wanting recognition.That sense of magic has stayed with me all these years.
Christmas Eve in Milan
It was our first Christmas Eve in Milan as a family. My parents dropped off the little ones, packed us up in the car and then hussled down to the busy train station. With some food and wrapped presents, we spent our first Christmas Eve wishing those without a home a Merry Christmas with the little we had to give. To be honest I don’t know if the 12 year old me appreciated the depth of the experience at the time. My introvert self was just panicking that I had to talk to strangers and probably was a little worried about what others would think. Looking back I realize how much that one small experience shaped how I see the holiday season.
Last Night at the Sharing Place
I have volunteered for a few years now at a food bank up the street. It is small and cozy and the holiday season is always the best, most hectic time of year. Last night I came with some rice krispy squares and 3 food hampers that would only be a small contribution to a much bigger event. As the food hampers and well wishes were exchanged, an older lady who attends regularly stopped before for a holiday greeting exchange and after the Happy Holiday’s and Merry Christmas came by to say goodbye with her usual big smile. She hesitated this time, stopped, looked me in the eye and said Thank You and We Love You with a big hug. She said it with such warmth and sincerity it was hard not to get lost in the moment. As much as I say I get more than I give from the experience, that moment proved it. At just the right time the right words were a much greater gift than anything I may have brought.
The lessons learned are many: the wonder and magic of a surprise gift with no expectation of return, a reminder or model that it is better to give than receive, and sometimes the best gifts cost nothing at all. These memories have acted as great reminders this season to focus on what is most important and after a busy, hectic year I am reminded that we all make choices. There is never enough time, but I can choose how I use it. Of course the teacher in me leaves hoping that my nephews, niece and the kids I care about have the pleasure of the same lessons one day. The lessons above didn’t happen in a school, classroom with books or paper, but there is nothing to say they can’t. I hope they get to experience compassion and the good in humanity.
Happy Holidays! I hope that whatever you may celebrate, it is a season of rest and joy.