My happiest Christmas I recall was a Christmas Eve back in 1976 when I as 8 years old. We had been invited to the homes of several people and I could not have been happier to experience the hospitality, generosity and love of so many. One of the homes we visited was of the Larson’s who lived in the City of Richmond on Sea Island, which is the same Island where the Vancouver International Airport is located. I still remember arriving at their door, and the rich aroma of food. I remember Betty Larson welcoming us in with her broad smile and bright and gregarious laugher. She gave me a hug and held in her arms.
I remember going into a room with a pool table which was transformed into a grand dining table and there seemed to be dozens gathered for the great feast. A recall another home we visited that same night of what I perceived to be an elderly woman who offered cookies and eggnog and who considered us friends. We visited one or two other families that night and their Christmas cheer remained with me for the rest of my life. This Christmas eve so many years ago still remains to be my favourite childhood Christmas memory. I remember many Christmas being thrilled to open gifts, and I recall the excitement of anticipation before the gift unwrapping could begin, but in terms of true joy, true Christlike gifts, 1976 remains on top.
On Christmas Eve 2016, 40 years later, a good friend named Bill Munro invited us to join him to prepare food for the homeless and we gladly accepted his invitation. We arrived at La Charcutie Delicatessen at 19080 96th Ave in Surrey BC where dozens of volunteers had gathered to prepare hundreds of lunches for those far more needy them myself. The owner Salam Kahil opens up his shop and his pocket book to make lunches for so many. We worked feverishly for just a few hours and he even provided food for all the many volunteers. Salam comes from Lebanon and welcomed us into his store with a broad smile and a bright gregarious laugh reminiscent of Mrs Larson 40 Christmases ago.
I have a good life. A loving wife, 5 healthy and happy children, and even a beautiful grandchild. I have good health, a reasonably sound mind, and friends who share my values. I am needed and loved; what more could I ask for. So many people have touched my life over the years, I wish I could name them. I recall school teachers who supported me, a kind neighbour who would bring us freshly baked bread, strangers who lent a hand. I wonder, have I been a teacher, a neighbour, or a stranger in like manner to others? As I consider the goodness that others have offered me, and the goodness people like Salem Kahil offers to, I realize that I can strive harder, be kinder, and give more often. This Christmas eve, with the little bit of service our family offered, I realize that it was not a sacrifice at all to to lighten someone else’s burden.
Merry Christmas Salam Kahil, thank you for making this season so much more; and Merry Christmas Betty Larson and so many others like you who made my life what it is today.