The Gift of Kindness


“Remembrance, like a candle, burns brightest at Christmastime.”  (Charles Dickens)


It is so true that we are more likely to go down memory lane during the holiday season. How many times have people retold horror stories about family feuds over the Christmas tree or a holiday gathering, that taint their view of the season forever? On the flipside however, how many insist on keeping all the time-honoured holiday traditions, passed down through generations, because of all the happy memories they evoke?


I have many childhood memories of the holiday season. Some are stronger than others, but all have left me with the feeling of loving Christmas and all that it brings. I am a little like the professional Macy’s Santa Claus who, when asked in his job interview why he loved Christmas, he looked down at his watch and said, “How much time do you have?”. I could retell lots of holiday stories, but the Christmas of 1970 is one I will never forget (yes, I am old!). Life had changed quite dramatically in our family, a few months before the holidays, with the diagnosis of my Dad’s inoperable and incurable cancer. All we wanted that Christmas was for my Daddy to be released from hospital and spend time at home. That Christmas wish came true when early on Christmas Eve my Mom received a phone call from the hospital to say he would be able to come home for a few days.


While waiting to be discharged, a volunteer came to my Dad’s room, at Princess Margaret Hospital, and delivered a beautiful home-made candy tree. As a child, I couldn’t imagine that a complete stranger would give someone a gift. Surely this person must know my Dad somehow? No, she didn’t. She was simply someone who came into the hospital bearing gifts for those who wouldn’t have a normal Christmas because of illness and a hospital stay. My Mom explained to me that there are lots of kind people in the world that make it their mission to spread holiday cheer and that is exactly what this kind volunteer was doing with her gift.


During a holiday season, when there wasn’t much to spend, or indeed much to celebrate, this treat was enjoyed by all of us. By the next Christmas my Dad was no longer with us, but my Mom took out the home-made candy tree, that had been packed away with our holiday decorations. She reused the form, the pins and the tinsel, adding fresh candies and rejuvenating this holiday treat for our family and visitors to enjoy.  She continued to do this for many years. It was always a reminder to me that kind gestures, no matter how small, can mean the world to someone. Seeing that tree year after year, I always recalled that a complete stranger made a difference to our family’s Christmas. I often wondered if that person had any idea how important their gift was. Although the candy tree is long gone, that gift and the kindness it represented, kindled a flame within me to give to, and share with others, whether I know them or not.


So if you start to feel overwhelmed with all the preparations of the season and worry if your gifts are good enough or if you have bought or done the right thing, please be encouraged by the fact that sometimes the simplest of gifts are enough to bring love and light into someone’s life. Through gestures of kindness, you could be part of someone’s life-long holiday memories, whether you know it or not.


Wishing you all a memory-making holiday,


Marie Bates