Wednesday April 23, 2014

Random Acts of Christmas: Kindness large and small

Ida Cumming's family

This is the time of year when charitable acts seem to be a little easier, when kind thoughts seem to come a little faster and the spirit of the season makes people smile a little more often.

Above and beyond all the charitable giving, there are the little things going on that we don’t hear about. The person who shovels snow for an elderly neighbour. The child who buys a toy for another in need. The hot chocolate bought and paid for ahead of you in the drive-thru.

We asked readers to submit their Random Acts of Christmas and they came through. We got stories, new and old, that illustrate the heart of the holidays.

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Random Acts can be big or small

As the creator of a local Facebook group called Random Acts of Kamloops Kindness, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the amazing community I now call home.

I am touched daily as I log into my Facebook account and read inspiring stories and answer messages.

This time of year, our third Christmas as a group, we are approached by many who are looking for help during the holiday, as well as messaged by community members who are looking for ways to help. As a community, Kamloops, we do a fabulous job. I thank those within the group as well as the many others who pay it forward on a regular basis.

Paying it forward or doing a random act of kindness can be anything from taking the time to get to know your community, open some doors, helping someone cross the street or even buying that coffee for someone who isn’t expecting it.

We all feel good when we are acknowledged if even in the simplest of ways. So over the Christmas holidays, I would love to see our community try just one random act of kindness, even approach our group and tell us what you did or what you received as one — you can’t help but smile.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours Kamloops. A thank-you to our group’s members for the inspirations. I am grateful.

— Tanya Evans Friesen

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The Christmas snow house

Ah, Christmas. What did we know of Christmas?

Being Norwegian and living on the Prairies during the Depression, we heard stories in the language of our ancestors and in the traditions of Norway. This is how we children came to hear of St. Nick, who Mother said brought gifts to good children on a special day.

We thought we had been good and wondered why we had never had a visit from this mysterious man until one day, when our parents thought it was time something good happened to us.

While we were out playing in the snow, Father came out and announced he would build a snow house. The snow packed well so we started making snowballs. After a while, Father started placing them in a huge circle. When he had finished the second row, he began squaring them off. We kept on making snowballs and Father kept on piling — going higher and higher.

Eventually the snow house was too high for us, but Father, being six feet tall, kept going until he could stand upright, shaping the walls inward and making the roof, leaving a hole for smoke. He then lit a fire inside and the warmth melted the snow, turning the interior walls to ice.

We were very young and had gone to bed long before Father had finished.

In the morning, we ran out to see a beautiful snow house and we wished we could stay in there and play all day, but we had to get Mother from our aunt's house and did not return until dusk.

Mother began telling us more about St. Nick and how here in Canada he was called Santa Claus. She told us he would soon be here, but that we would have to be very good.

We could only speak Norwegian but Mother had taught us how to write some words so we could write letters to Santa for Father to deliver.

One night, Mother told us each to take a stocking and lay them on the bench in the snow house so that Santa could find them. She said Father had written to Santa and asked if he could stop here on Christmas Eve and that we had all been very good.

Later back in the house, as she read to us, we heard a noise outside. We scraped away the frost on the window and peeked out, but could see nothing. Suddenly we heard bells.

"Oh!" she said. "Here comes Santa Claus! Get dressed.”

We were so excited that we had the wrong coats on and our boots on the wrong feet. A glow was coming from the snow house. We rushed inside.

Four candles lit up the interior. In one corner, Father had made a tree from some boards and mother decorated it with chains made from coloured paper. Under the tree were five boxes wrapped in crepe paper. We thought they were too lovely to unwrap.

There lay our stockings, each had hand-made dolls sticking out, even the boys. Deep in the socks were beautifully sewn clothes of all kinds and cozy little quilts and pillows. The boys’ dolls were bowlegged and they had cowboy hats and lariats. We girls got dresses, skirts and blouses for the dolls. In the toe of each sock was one orange, nuts and colorful candies.

In the boxes were pots, pans, forks, knives and spoons that mother had made from tin cans, they were so well made not one sharp edge could be found. Our two brothers got hand-made trains. To the side of the tree lay two bobsleds father had made.

A fire blazed in the center of the room and there we played until we could no longer stay awake.

The excitement of that Christmas was everlasting. The year was 1936 and I was only four years old. But I can recall every minute to this day. The snow house lasted a long time, but slowly began to shrink until all that was left was a puddle.

— Ida Cumming

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