**SPECIAL TO THE ATLANTIC TIDES**
One of my favorite Christmas Traditions has become caroling with family and friends at the local seniors homes with members of the Kinette Club of Central PEI.
Each holiday season, a 40 passenger bus, donated by Atlantic Bus and driven by Harold Smith, affectionately known as “Smitty”, is filled with carolers excited to visit Summerset and Wedgewood Manors as well as Andrews Lodge.
Kinette members from across PEI, their families, friends, and even Smitty’s wife and grandson, jump in the bus, pick up Santa and set out to visit in excess of 250 seniors. The look on the senior’s faces and the joy in their hearts as they see Santa arrive, his Santa sac filled with gifts loving made especially for them, reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas. It’s all about spreading joy, bringing peace, and the act of giving rather than receiving.
For me, Christmas means family. For me, Christmas means making people happy not by getting “wrapped up” in “stuff”, but by getting “Wrapped up” in making seniors feel special, important, and loved. It’s the little things that matter. Gifts get forgotten, memories don’t. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When it comes to the Seniors, I believe this to ring 100% true. It was magical seeing their eyes light up when we arrived- some of we dressed as ginger-bread men, others as reindeer, toy soldiers, Raggedy Ann, Santa and even a Christmas tree. The smiles, strong handshakes, and warm hugs we received as we approached each and every one, wished them a Merry Christmas and then handed them a Christmas ornament that read, “Merry Christmas- Kin Family 2015” warmed my heart.
Personally, my Father is a resident at Summerset Manor. My Mother was a resident at Wedgewood Manor before she passed away, and still other Kinette members have family living at Andrews Lodge. So we know how this seemingly small act of kindness can make a difference in the Christmas experience for seniors who are often lonely during the holiday season. Residents, who are able to remember, often talk days, weeks, even months later about what this experience means to them and for those residents who are unable to remember, that momentary twinkle in their eye says more than words will ever say. Residents love to join in when we begin to sing the Christmas Carols. Words, long forgotten, become remembered again. Familiar Melodies, flow freely from their voices. Their bodies, some in wheelchairs, some with walkers, others in their beds, move slowly as memories re-enter their minds, some joyous and wonderful, others distant and lonely. It brings Christmas “back” to them and brings Christmas “present” to me.
The Kinettes, who average in age about 50+, their children, grandchildren, staff, and families, represent multiple generations of people. All with different experiences, different traditions, different lives, yet united in one desire, to spread Christmas cheer to a group of people, who just like us, have lived and loved, who have laughed and cried, and most importantly who have experienced Christmas in times of need, times of wealth, and in a time where “things” didn’t matter, family mattered. Gifts were not purchased, they were handmade. Christmas meant being together; it meant peace among men, looking out for each other, family and neighbors. It meant praising God and singing hymns. It was a time when receiving was less important than giving, a time to look after one another to include those who were lonely or forgotten. It was a simpler time, a gentler time, a kinder time. It was a better time. Staff, families, and residents all tell us what a difference we make.
For me, it’s the residents who make the REAL difference for me they give ME far more joy, spread far more peace, and bring the TRUE meaning of Christmas to me. The smiles on their faces mirror my own as I leave. As I lie awake that night and reminisce about all of the feelings and Emotions I experienced, I think to myself, “THIS is MY Christmas”. “This is what “Peace on Earth”, means to me”, and already I am making plans for next year. As I age, I ponder what Christmas means to me and what my favorite Christmas tradition is. It is without a doubt, Christmas Caroling- surrounded by my family, and friends and members of the Kinette Club of Central PEI, spreading joy in the hearts of my favorite group of people, the seniors. For they help me to remember the past, plan for the future, and live in the present.
Sue Gallant is President of Central PEI, has been a member of Kin for 14 yrs. She has held positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, Registrar. Sue has chaired many
projects, including some of their biggest projects – Kin Family Christmas Appeal & Christmas Caroling to Seniors.