The Year Long Volunteer program is a unique and treasured part of the Christ House community. As the ’19-’20 cohort begins the second half of their service and starts to process their experiences, we offer them space to share with the community.
Christmas at Christ House
by Andrei Tong
For many, Christmas morning arrives with great anticipation. Families around the country celebrate in homes filled with warmth and joy. As a beacon of healing and hope to those who have no place to call home, Christ House was no different on Christmas day.
As the patients and guys in the Kairos program woke up, they discovered small gifts in stockings hung on their doors – a small taste of what they would soon receive. Meanwhile, several staff members snuck off to Starbucks, ordering hot coffee for the entire Christ House family. As I ate breakfast with some of the patients, they reminisced about their favorite Christmases. Understandably, some struggled to recall positive memories – an important, yet sober reminder of how difficult the holidays can be for many, especially for those disconnected from support systems.
As breakfast wrapped up, we announced that Santa had brought presents. The patients stirred in their seats; some wondered if they were really going to receive gifts. One by one, we began handing out the presents. It was special seeing different members of the community present to help make the day special for all the patients, from kitchen volunteers to medical providers. As each patient received their gifts, there was a wide range of reactions, from repeated thank-yous to shocked faces with widened eyes full of amazement.
The dining room was abuzz with laughter and shouts of joy as the patients began to open up their presents. All around, patients began showing off their new shirts or started tinkering with their new radios. Many began transferring the crumpled-up contents of their pockets and beaten-up wallets into their brand new wallets. Other patients chose to wait to open their gifts privately in their own rooms on the second floor, emotionally overwhelmed with what was taking place.
Throughout the morning, my heart was filled to the brim with joy and gratitude. For one patient who I had the privilege of giving a gift to, it was his first Christmas sober since he was fourteen years old. As he showed off the different gifts that he received, his eyes welled up with tears of joy, telling me that he couldn’t remember the last time he had such a wonderful Christmas. Another patient had saved his unopened package from a sweater party two weeks prior so that he would have something to open on Christmas morning. Little did he know, he would receive a bag full of presents with his name on it!
Christmas day at Christ House is just a snapshot of the incredible healing that takes place here each day, around the clock. During my short time at Christ House, I’ve witnessed incredible transformations, whether through physical and mental healing, through advocacy and case management, or through the chains of addiction beginning to break in community.
Almost every day, I see the healing power that comes from laughter and conversations. At Christ House, I am confident that each patient will have the opportunity to be surrounded by people who will show them radical love.
During Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas, we hold on dearly to the lights of hope, love, joy, and peace in anticipation of Jesus’s birth. The Christmas season may have come and gone, but there is still work to be done. This year — this decade — it is important for us to keep holding on to those principles. In the face of darkness, how will you be a light and share hope, love, joy, and peace with others? Do you dare see and love your suffering neighbor? How will you uplift and empower others?