Wednesday April 16, 2014

Random Acts of Christmas: Selfless giving

Darren MacKenzie, right, is home for Christmas after a kidney transplant in Vancouver — a kidney selflessly and lovingly donated by his older brother Dean Mackenzie, who stands beside him in front of the tree.

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.

Kidney donation comes from the heart

This story has been affecting our family intensely for over a year. It is more than a Christmas gift but it was a gift from an angel.

My husband, Darren MacKenzie, has kidney disease and a year ago started his blood dialysis. We have a young family with three children: Myranda, 7, Carter, 3, and Riley, 2.

It was on Riley’s first birthday to the day that Darren was in the specialist’s office and told his dialysis lines were going in. But it was also the time his only and older brother Dean Mackenzie started his long road of tests to be a donor.

Without question or doubt, he and his family made the decision to save his brother’s life and quality of life. Dean also has a wife and two sons, Kane and Aiden.

A date was set for end of November for a transplant. In late October, there was a sudden call that they had a cancellation. Again, without doubt or question, Dean said yes and within a few days, the brothers were set for surgery in Vancouver.

This is a Christmas story, for Dean is recovered and home with his family and Darren is expected to be home in mid-December.

Before Christmas.

It has been our daughter’s question since the day he left: “Will you be home for Christmas?”

This will be the best Christmas present — an unselfish act. True family brotherly love and a sacrifice from his family to ours — for our family to have hope of a healthy husband and dad back.

On top of everything else, our family has had enormous help while Darren has been recovering in Vancouver for six weeks. This is what faith of humanity, generosity and spiritual uplifting is to my family.

— Tracy MacKenzie

Sarah’s warmth stands out

Nineteen-year-old Sarah recognized him as he approached her at her weekend job at Penny Pinchers. Sarah had seen the man, through spring and summer around the North Shore and Schubert area, pushing a cart or bike with his belongings. He was always listening to his large but quiet radio secured in the top of the cart or front basket of the bike.

He told Sarah his radio, which he held in his hand, was broken. He needed her help to replace it. Together, they found a good working radio that would withstand his lifestyle.

She then told him to buy food with the money he saved for the radio and the
radio was his to take and enjoy.

Wishing him well and saying good-bye, Sarah paid for the radio herself.

When she saw him after that, he pointed to his radio, smiled and said, “It still works.”

This past Dec. 5, outside Extra Foods, Sarah stopped as a man standing by his bike listening to a radio in the front basket started talking to her. I heard him tell her the radio said how cold it would be that night. But he was warm in the two coats she gave him.

As we proceeded into the store, I quickly asked, “What did he mean?” Sarah told me in November, she drove by the man. It was very cold out and he wasn’t dressed for it. So she went to Penny Pinchers, bought a light winter coat and a heavier coat. She went looking for the man, found him and he gladly put on both coats.

I will not forget the sight of this man, bundled in two coats with the constant company of his radio.

Thanks to a young woman who goes to Thompson Rivers University Monday to Friday and works every weekend but is not too busy for a random act of kindness.

— Linda Zylstra

* * *

Busyness no excuse for not giving

Winter came early that year and by mid-December, there were four inches of snow on the ground.

I was fully immersed in decorating, gift shopping and wrapping, baking and involved in my four children’s Christmas school concerts. My days were full and time was passing quickly — only two weeks until Christmas.

A close friend approached me about helping a needy family. My first reaction was, no way can I cram yet another project into my already harried schedule.

I listened as she explained that the father had been laid off from work several weeks earlier. There were three children — two girls and one boy, ranging in ages from four to 13. I told her I would think about it and get back to her.

As I mulled over her suggestion in my mind, I quickly realized — how could I not reach out to others in need when I was so richly blessed?

We made a quick trip to the grocery store to buy the biggest turkey we could find and all the trimmings.

We decided each family member should have two gifts. I involved my children in choosing the gifts and wrapping them in festive paper and ribbon.

We chose a day, packed up our treasures and off we went.

When they answered our knock at their door, there were mixed feelings — first, feeling hesitant and uneasy, but it quickly turned to happy, smiling faces.

As we left, big fluffy snowflakes fell from the sky. We began singing carols. It was a magical moment. The act of giving without expecting anything in return is wonderful. An added bonus was that our children learned a first-hand lesson in compassion and love.

That evening, we received so much more than we gave.

— Sheila Astle

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