Before we begin, thanks to these ladies above who have proven to be here for the long haul with our 3rd annual Christmas Party and counting, since the time we’ve been declared OM teammates, to the time we’ve become champions in our hearts time and again and to the time 2 of us graduated and we continued to be there for each other. Merry Christmas from us!
I guess one of the good things about having a blog is that it helps you keep track of the milestones and the thoughts, so I get to find out what my thoughts a year ago were like and see how they’ve changed: this time specifically, my views on Christmas. It seems last year I had little to say about it, besides that it was like a checkpoint for reflection– to consider the importance of goodness in our character and how that has turned out for us in the last 365 days, concluded in the question of whether we had been ‘naughty or nice’. This year on the other hand, thanks to the recently concluded Merry Marathon 2014 along with the Camp Win 2 experience, I have found new meaning in Christmas.
This is about the importance of presence as presents.
Merry Marathon 2014 was a community service marathon to spread the Christmas spirit to the elderly of various nursing homes and senior activity centres over the course of two days and to bring cheer to the streets of Orchard with a flash mob and a ‘merry walk’ consisting of caroling and free hugs: with the strength of 50 odd volunteers and infinite energy, the implications of the random acts of kindness through the marathon was magical. There was a compounded effect from the simple deeds that were committed (from the Christmas dance we practiced tirelessly to the carols we sang at the top of our lungs) because of the spirit of the season being translated into presence. At the old folks’ homes and that for the intellectually disabled, there was a joy that came with the sight of unexpected strangers clad in bright orange handing out presents for reasons they knew little about. The spontaneous grand entrance was later followed by hours of interaction– of sitting side by side to share conversations, even the more superficial ones counted for something and finding out their favourite food, favourite sport, song, colour brought us to a new level of friendship every time. In my attempt to put reason to this seemingly unexplainable happiness we brought to them with a simple thing like presence, I considered every other day they led in these homes in the company of the familiar faces called ‘nurses’ and the mundane chores that (ironically) brought rhythm to the day that would otherwise be spent sitting at their seats waiting for time to pass.
Camp Win 2 was a half-day camp with station games and prize presentation designed for the intellectually disabled children, organised and led by the very capable Project WIN team. Project WIN (WeINspire) is a group of 7 fellow batchmates who believe strongly in integrating this marginalised community into mainstream community as much as possible by organising activities from sports, arts, music for them and by erasing myths about them by engaging volunteers. Every volunteer was paired with a buddy to befriend and take care of throughout the course of the camp meant to have them enjoy the Christmas-themed activities. In the communication with these children or teenagers with special needs, there is a different cap to wear: every child, a different way of expressing themselves and a different kind of passion that will tug at their heartstrings– the objective of this cap is to understand that, and discover these perks, one by one. In learning more about my buddy, I had the opportunity to interact with other caregivers (consisting mostly of parents and helpers), and I realised how the presence of volunteers like us impacted their lives. The integration is only possible with the company of other people who believe in them, people besides their family, people from the ‘mainstream society’. With our presence, it means faith restored in their caregivers whom I have so much respect for, support for these caregivers and for whatever it counts for, it means a breather for them, just for a bit. I suppose sometimes we don’t realise that our presence could benefit someone else besides the one we are actually physically there for.
In translating these insights about presence from the two fruitful experiences in the last 4 days, I’d like for this Christmas to also be about my presence in my family: in how I tame the party girl in me and find time for the home, and in how I diligently find time to be with my grandparents. In the reunions and gatherings, isn’t that what Christmas is essentially about?
Here’s Merry Christmas from me to you!