The requests are simple. An electric kettle. A set of double sheets. A heating pad. A gift card to a bookstore.
And underneath the requests, is that place of humility. Of humanness. Of gratitude. Of community.
This is the second year we’ve organized Christmas at the Madison. The second year we’ve held the concert. Interviewed clients for the wishlist, bought gifts and put on Christmas dinner.
It isn’t something I do alone. It’s something that happens becase many people commit to being part of it, to sharing their talents, time and treasures to ensure no one is left out in the cold on Christmas morning.
The wishlist idea stemmed from my work at the homeless shelter where for over 7 years now, clients have been invited to share a bit of their story that is then put online so that Calgarians can read their wish and possibly make it come true this Christmas.
Yesterday, I spoke with Jennie Keeran, the founder and brilliance behind the Christmas WishList, and the found of “Homeless Partners“. When she originally walked into my office in 2007 I really had no idea what she was talking about, or even if it was possible to fulfill on her dream of sharing the spirit of Christmas with clients at the shelter. But, Jennie is a woman of vision. A woman who doesn’t recognize the limits of ‘no’ and sees only the possiibilities of ‘yes’.
That first year of hosting the WishList for Homeless Partners was kerr-aazy!
Volunteers descended upon the shelter night after night, organized by the indefatigable Brandi M who also hears only the power of yes — Yes! Of course we can do that. Yes! Let’s make it work. Between Brandi and Jennie, and all the volunteers they organized to interview and to post the stories and wishes online, over 600 people received a gift of their choice that year.
It was incredible. Mark P, who works at the shelter, and his wife Natalie dove into receiving and organizing and sorting the gifts, giving up their Christmas weekend to be on site to ensure every gift was placed into the right hands, every thank you was captured.
The Christmas WishList is a story of community and collaboration. It’s about being committed to not just ‘giving’ but of connecting, hand to hand, heart to heart, to ensure everyone feels seen, acknowledged, visible on Christmas morning.
Yesterday, when I chatted with Jennie, I found myself enveloped once again in that special place that she creates where there are no limits, no ‘can’t do that’s’ no, impossible’s!
I found myself sharing in this one woman’s passion, commitment and heart. I found myself inspired to keep turning up, to keep allowing, to keep being the change I want to see in the world.
It is for me, a wonderful gift to receive. To be reminded, that no matter what, it isn’t how people receive that makes the difference, it’s that I give. My best. My all. My utmost to ensuring this world becomes a kinder, more caring, more compassionate and just world — every day of the year.
Yes, the Wishlist focuses on Christmas. But underneath the glitter and the bows, the gift-giving and the unwrapping, is the message that speaks to me of what it means to be alive and breathing on this planet every day of the year.
We are all one planet. One air we breathe. One earth upon which we walk. And while maps may show invisible lines of demarcation, zones where war wages and countries are bounded by barbed wire and armed guards, there is no dividing line between our humanity.
We are all one.
We all have the capacity to give. To create. To be the change we want to see in the world.
I want to see a more compassionate, caring, kind and loving world. I want to see a world where children do not awaken to bombs exploding in the night or dive beneath their beds (if they have one) to avoid being beaten.
I want to live in a world where everyone knows, they matter. Where everyone feels their own power to express themselves in ways that create a world of awe and wonder. A world where being kind to one another trumps doing whatever it takes to make sure no one gets me before I get them.
I want to live in a world where Christmas wishlists are no longer needed because no one is that far from home they cannot reach out to touch and be touched by the one’s they love.
And until that happens, I will continue to do whatever I can to create a world where I am free to give my all to ensure that where ever I am, whatever I’m doing, I am the change I want to see in the world.
It’s the least I can do to ensure that the Jennie Keeran’s of the world and all those who work so hard to make a difference know, they’re not alone. I may not be able to do all that they do, but I sure can lend a hand and do my most to be part of the magic they create when they turn up and ask me to say, “Yes!”
Because, while there may not be a Santa Claus, we can all do our part to light up the dark by turning up and letting the brilliance of our hearts shine for all the world to see.