“Right, next year we are going to go away for Christmas”. It was a bold proclamation, made by me, in 2015, after having just lost my Nan two weeks before Christmas. For a start, I wanted to go to Marbs, and my Mum was scared of flying, so possible spanner in the works there.
As the time neared, I realised that Mum had neither gone to get hypnotherapy, or become magically cured of her fear of flying. We needed an alternative. To be honest, I’d been toying with the idea of volunteering for a while, but when my Nan was with us we spent the day with her as she would have been alone otherwise.
When I suggested the idea to Mum, she was as enthusiastic as me, so we started looking online for places we could lend a hand on Christmas Day. We immediately came across the Hadleigh Temple Salvation Army, and the Christmas dinner they do.
Every year, around 15 volunteers give up their Christmas Day to come in and help to put on a dinner and some entertainment for people (mostly elderly) who would have been otherwise alone this Christmas.
When we arrived at 11.15, I was given a quick tour and then told I’d basically be mingling and chatting to people and Mum was in the kitchen. This was perfect for me. I love talking to people, finding out their story, and what they like and dislike. People started arriving and were taken into the lounge for tea and coffee while the last bits of the dinner were being finished off. I tried to scatter my time around everyone, but I immediately warmed to a little group I was with in the lounge and decided to sit with them at dinner.
Thanks to the donations the Salvation Army receives, 32 people yesterday who would of otherwise been alone got served a three course Christmas meal and then waited on hand and foot all day, every whim catered to. After the meal, some Christmas entertainment was provided, then we all watched the Queens speech, which was great because I always like to see what she’s got to say.
Back in the lounge after, everyone had another drink and a mince pie and a chat while waiting for their lifts. It really was a fantastic feeling to see that everyone had a good day, but what was even more of a fantastic feeling was how surprised I was at how good a day I had.
In all honesty, that was the best Christmas I’d ever had. I’ve had some great Christmas Day shenanigans in my time. Big family day’s with all my cousins, nice meals out in Epping, and lovely surprise ‘main presents’ which I knew nothing about. But this really was different. Instead of walking away feeling like I had done something for all the guys that attended, I truly walked away feeling they had done something for me, for letting me be part of such a special day.