I Love A Parade!

It’s been a few years since I was in a parade for one reason or another, but last night I volunteered to give out candy canes along side the CHEK Television float and car in the Santa’s Light Parade in downtown Victoria with my good friend Elaine.

I borrowed my daughter’s big coat and dressed myself as warmly as possible.  The forecast called for a 60% chance of rain and it was going to be about 3 degrees, so I wanted to be good and ready.  Elaine picked me up in her car and we headed downtown, only to get caught up in a bottleneck of other cars about halfway there.  Of course, EVERYONE ELSE was also headed downtown.  Why hadn’t we thought of that??  We finally found a way out and took a different route downtown, skirting past most of the traffic.

Then it was out of the car and a speedy walk past the huge crowds that were already gathered, down to the BC Museum where the parade began.  I was already in a sweat!  We wondered if we were going to make it on time, and just as we ran up to the float, which was basically a huge inflated camera perched on a semi truck, it began to roll.  We grabbed bags of candy, and started running again, stopping every now and then to hand out candy to the eager hands that were stretched out towards us. 

I’d look up and the truck was already half way down the block, so I’d run to catch up…then I’d throw my hand in the bag and grab a  handful of candy and stop to hand it out to more hands.  “Thank you!” I’d hear.  “Merry Christmas!”  A lot of the parents were telling their kids “Are you remembering to say thank you?”  Some kids were clever and held out their hats, where I could see that they’d already gotten a good supply of candy from the floats that were ahead of us.  “I got a blue one this time!”  I heard somebody excitedly say. 

Sometimes the candy would fall out of my hands into the street and kids would scramble to grab it.  One young guy said as I handed him a candy cane “Could I have one for my brother?”  I looked at him and realized he was just scamming me, but I started to hand him another one, and then a third one fell on the street.  He scrambled to grab it too.  “Is that for your other brother?”  I smiled at him.  He knew that I knew there were no brothers.

I would look for the kids that were shy and sitting back, and make sure to give them something.  Several times I ran into families where a parent would say “No candy, thank you.”  One mother actually took the candy out of the kids’ hand just after I put it there.  She handed it back to me.  I wondered about that.  Is a candy cane such a terrible thing?  How did that child feel about every other child around them getting candy and then being told to give it back?  It was an odd experience in what was otherwise a lot of fun.  I didn’t have much time to ponder it, because the truck was far ahead again!

Big “kids” held out their hands too and I didn’t refuse them either.  There were a couple of groups of Japanese students who didn’t speak English but knew how to hold out their mittened hands, and I filled them up and ran on.  Sometimes the kids were 4 or 5 rows deep, so I took a handful of candy and yelled “Here it comes!”, throwing it into the crowd.  Then I was off running again, throwing more candy, and more.  Every now and then I’d see Elaine, running behind me or ahead of me.  Once I yelled to her “Are we there yet?” and we laughed.  But not for long.

There were hundreds of more kids to toss candy to.  We darted and stopped and darted again as we continued to try and keep up with the CHEK float.  I had to grab another bag out of the back of the CHEK car when I ran out, and then I was back into the crowds again.  Candy canes, outstretched hands, “Thank you!”, and off running again.

And then, suddenly and as quickly as it started, we were at the end of the parade route.  The line of crowds ended and I saw regular traffic at the intersection ahead.  The truck took off into the night and I turned to find Elaine.  We put the bags back in the car and said goodbye to everyone else who was handing out candy, and it was over.  I realized that I was soaking with sweat, my legs were like rubber from all of the running, and I was huffing and puffing and laughing all at once.  We began the walk back, in behind the crowds this time, and were able to just barely see some of the other floats in the part of the parade that was behind us.  At last there was a huge float with Santa on board, signaling the end of the parade and the beginning of the Christmas season, and the huge crowds began to disperse.

What a wild ride!  I love a parade :-).

IJ

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The Real Joy of Christmas

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One of my favourite events of the year is the annual Christmas Drive-Thru that CHEK Television and a number of local sponsors put on every year to raise money and donate clothes and toys and food to the Salvation Army.

The last two years it’s been a live broadcast from a local hotel during the news hour. Instead of commercials, the news cuts to the hotel, where CHEK staff and other volunteers happily unload all kinds of donations from people’s cars, while the Salvation Army band plays Christmas carols. My job has been the same over the past 16 years or so; I direct traffic.

I love directing traffic. I’m usually not where the real hubbub is, I’m out of the shot of the cameras and the “celebrity” staff and the unloading. But I get to see the look on driver’s faces as they are approaching the main event. I direct them with a happy smile and wave them through, and they usually have big grins on their faces, looking forward to giving their donations and maybe catching the eye of one of our better known on-air personalities.

Sometimes they look a little confused because they are not sure which way to drive through, so I make sure they know where they are going. There have been a few incidences over the years when people did some pretty wacky turns or ended up on a curb in their confusion. Sometimes as they are approaching from a block or so away they start to slow down, so I enthusiastically wave them over until I see them speed up, a little more confident that they’ve come to the right place.

I try to catch them on the way out too, and thank them and wish them Merry Christmas. It’s the best job ever, and even when it’s cold or wet or miserable out, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

So the other day when I went to my father’s care facility to spend the annual Christmas luncheon with him, I understood the grins on the volunteers faces as they worked tirelessly to feed everyone and sing songs and make merry. It was a huge job, even with an army of volunteers. Not only did they serve regular meals to everyone, but they served special meals to those who had special diets. The staff delivered the medications to all of those who needed it, and a lady sat on the piano and played Christmas carols, while a volunteer Santa visited and had his picture taken with every guest. We shared a table with a brother and sister who must have been in their 70’s or 80’s, whose 103-year-old mother was also there. She was deaf and in a wheelchair, but you could tell by the twinkle in her eye that she was definitely with it!

This is the time of year when the best comes out in a lot of people. I know, I know, the worst comes out in others, but I’m going to do my best to ignore that part of the season. Instead I want to focus all of my attention on the people who do so much for others this time of year, whether it’s volunteering at a care facility, or standing in the cold ringing a bell and taking donations. I’m going to contribute by patiently letting the driver in my lane, even if he didn’t signal first, or opening the door for someone who’s got an armful of packages.

Let’s face it, Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of people. Maybe in some way, it is for you. So if you’re feeling the need, do something for yourself by doing something, no matter how small, for somebody else.

And have yourself a Merry Little Christmas 🙂
IJ

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The Gift of Forgiveness

You see it in television interviews, read it in newspapers, hear it on the radio…everytime there is a legal case against a person or organization, or when people are interviewed after someone has gotten away with some kind of crime, you hear the word “closure”; all we want is closure, this will give me some kind of closure.

The Oxford Dictionary defines closure as :

1 an act or process of closing. 2 a device that closes or seals. 3 (in a legislative assembly) a procedure for ending a debate and taking a vote.

Most people are referring to the first definition, “an act or process of closing”. But I think what they are really seeking is an end to their own suffering and a feeling of peace, which I think they expect a legal proceeding or the receipt of something to do. It doesn’t.

Closure is over-used and misinterpreted, a tacky and misunderstood cliche.

It’s not that I don’t have empathy for a family that has lost a loved one to a drunk driver, for instance, standing outside the courthouse at the end of the driver’s trial, relieved that the whole procedure is over. I can’t begin to know how it must feel. But although it may be closure with respect to the end of the trial, it won’t end their suffering or give them peace.

The end to suffering happens gradually over time and is the result of inner work, not a court verdict.

Something else that I’m afraid we human beings mis-identify as “closure”, is revenge. We believe that if someone is punished for what they have done to us, that we will feel better. Perhaps for a short while we do, but as many often discover, revenge doesn’t put things back to where they were before. And it often leaves us feeling worse in the long run.

What truly ends our suffering in all of these cases is forgiveness. But forgiveness is also a word that is misunderstood. Many people believe that forgiveness means they have somehow approved the other person’s heinous act, or given permission for them to continue to behave that way. We often feel that by remaining angry and hateful towards the other person, we are punishing them in some way. More often than not, they don’t even feel it!

What forgiveness does is relieve our own suffering by helping us to let go of our anger and pain. And often when we do this, we are more able to understand the cause of the other person’s behaviour. Forgiveness liberates us from the burden of our own misery, and clears our view just like clouds parting to reveal a crystal blue sky. True, heartfelt forgiveness is something we all need to practise once in awhile…all the time, in fact!

Every time Christmas rolls around I inevitably bump into someone who feels Grinch-like about the whole thing, for various reasons. Most of the time it has to do with old wounds, disappointments and misunderstandings around family or friends. To all of you who are feeling this way even a little bit this season, give yourself the wonderful gift of forgiveness. Let it go, even just for a little while and enjoy the peace that it brings.

I wish a peaceful, happy Christmas to you all :-).

IJ