Gilchrist: Ida drives home real meaning of Christmas

Tracy Gilchrist Editor / Kamloops Daily News
December 21, 2013 01:00 AM

The Daily News decided to try something new this Christmas that I hope readers are enjoying.

Random Acts of Christmas began Friday, and will appear in the Monday and Tuesday editions.

Rather than asking readers to invent Christmas-themed stories, we encouraged people to share real situations where they either were the beneficiary, observer or initiator of a kind deed.

And, apparently, based on the huge number of responses we received, Kamloops is a place brimming in compassion.

We heard about how members of a choir showed up on a doorstep singing Christmas carols a month late as the homeowner just got out of hospital; how a Christmas hamper brimming with food and gifts was delivered anonymously to a single mom and family; how a TRU student provided warm clothing for a homeless man; and about the ultimate donation of a kidney from a brother.

Today, you can read 81-year-old Ida Cumming's story, recalled from her Depression-era childhood on the Prairies.

Her family built a snowhouse that her father completed and then used as a place to secretly build toys.

Ida's parents had no money to provide gifts but wanted a special Christmas for her and her four siblings so they made every gift and even the tree (read her story to learn more).

She told me she's never forgotten those times and still has some of "that stuff." Much of it has been passed down through her family and she continues the traditions today.

"I don't buy stuff, I make it. My husband and I made all our kids' toys, including Barbie dolls and their clothes," she said.

She also makes Christmas cookies and soup for her clan, now counting at five children,
10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

"I don't just go into the store and buy something," she says. "Bought stuff doesn't really
matter, Christmas is what you make of it."

Sounds like something out of a well-loved Christmas story, but Ida is the real deal and I'm sure her sentiments will echo with many people.

Her parents' efforts inspired Ida and the chats I've had with her over the weeks since she
submitted her story really

All those things everyone says about Christmas are true. It's not about receiving, but giving, however you can. You don't have to be wealthy to make someone feel happy or loved, as our Random Acts of Christmas illustrates, and it sure isn't about how many presents are under the tree.

As for me, we're finally taking the step of not exchanging gifts with our adult kids this year, instead donating toward charity, pooling it together and we'll draw names from a hat to decide who gets to choose their favourite charity as the recipient.

We all have too much stuff, anyway, so are happy to give back, and really, view the holiday as an excuse to wind down, reconnect, eat and drink, play games, watch movies, tell stories, skate, ice fish, be lazy and laugh. It's about enjoying family, nothing to do with stuff.

Another Ida-ism is that no one is going to remember who got what in the years ahead, it's how we spent the time together that counts. I couldn't agree more.

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