by Lorraine Payette, written December 25, 2013
– from http://www.mysafetysign.com
Most people are familiar with the Christmas basket. Every year in December, different businesses and charitable organizations get together and collect food, small gifts, and other items to give to the “poor” in society. Usually this means those who are not well off financially, those for whom such feasts might seem impossible otherwise.
Many of these baskets are viewed by the recipients as a boost through the holidays, some are seen as an embarrassing necessity, but occasionally, they are truly miracles.
One of these Christmas miracles occurred in December of 1985. It was snowy, but not particularly cold, and Christmas was fast approaching. The single mother of a 3-year-old son was enjoying a welcome sleep in on a Saturday morning, when he woke her up.
“Mummy, scratch my back, it’s so itchy,” he said. Then, after thinking about it a minute, “Please?”
She rolled over to see a brightly lit sky at the window and a determined face placed firmly between it and her. Sighing, she sat up and checked his back first before scratching it for him. After all, he did say “please”…
Lifting his shirt, she found a grainy, garnet coloured sand like rash that she had never seen before. He was hot to the touch, and she knew this was more than just another itchy back.
“Honey, we’re going to have to go to the hospital,” she said.
This was always a challenge. They lived about 11 miles (18 Kms) from the city, and she didn’t drive. There was a Voyageur bus on Saturdays, but it would be tough going if she missed it. Neighbours were unlikely to help out, and she would have a hard time getting home again.
But they had to get in, so she got him ready and off they went. On arriving at the hospital, his temperature was quite high and the rash had started spreading toward his face and down his arms. They were let in right away, and the diagnosis was scarlet fever.
The treatment would not be the modern “just give him some antibiotic and he’ll be fine” which was just starting to be used and may cause more people to become infected, but was an old fashioned “get him home – your family doctor says 30 days quarantine”. Medicine was provided immediately at the hospital, and they were given a ride home by ambulance.
Much as the boy enjoyed the unusual ride (and he would talk about it for quite some time when he got back to day care), the mother was terrified. She had been unemployed for quite a while, and they survived through the financial kindness of family members living hundreds of miles away. Quarantine meant 30 days of nobody in, nobody out. Things could be left in the mailbox at the street or out in the yard, but no one was able to leave the house and interact with other people for any reason. This meant she could not go to the bank, could not go out to shop, could not do any of the needed chores outside the home. With no one to help and dwindling supplies on hand, she had no idea of how they could possibly get through.
They hadn’t been home much more than an hour when the phone rang. She asked her son to please try to be quiet as she answered it, and he toned down the siren noises as he rolled his toy emergency vehicles around on the floor.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” the voice said. “I’m the manager of the Dominion Store on Barrack Street in Kingston, and we were wondering if you could use a Christmas basket this year?”
Ordinarily, she would have said, “No, thank you,” believing there were others who were far less fortunate than she. But this year…
Within an hour, the pick-up truck had pulled up by her door. She called out to the driver, explaining that the black and yellow signs in the windows meant she couldn’t go out and he couldn’t come in. He smiled, waved, and started unloading boxes onto the snow.
So many boxes! She couldn’t believe it. She yelled thank you out the window, and she and her son waved as the truck drove away.
Inside was everything they needed to get through not just the Christmas holiday, but the entire 30 days. Food and beverages in abundance, some toys, mitts and a touque for her son, warm gloves that she could wear. They had even provided cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet tissue.
All these years later, she still thinks back on that basket – it truly was a Christmas miracle. Her son got better, and they were able to return to their lives after the quarantine was over. The supplies were exactly enough, at exactly the right time. And she remains eternally grateful to the people who never knew her or her circumstances, but were willing to reach out and help during this so critical time in their lives.
The next time you think about the Christmas baskets and whether or not they are more than just a meaningless token handed out to make more fortunate people feel better once a year, please consider this story. You never know when you might just be participating in someone else’s miracle.