The challenge and joy of Christmas
24 November 2017
“To see children so happy when you think they’re going to get nothing is just the best feeling in the world. It is hard to describe just how good you feel, seeing them so happy, especially at such a bad time. The people that donate are just amazing people.”- Sue
Sue says she was “in a very bad place” just weeks before Christmas 2015. She had been excitedly planning her wedding when her life turned into a nightmare. Her long-term relationship had fallen apart painfully and violently after her fiancée returned from an extended stay in his home country a “totally different” man.
“To this day I still fear for me and my girls’ lives knowing he is still around,” she says.
Sue explains: “There was a lot of verbal abuse and a lot of threats from him – there were two occasions where he lunged at me. The second time … I managed to grab his hands and stop him. Both my girls saw it all. They were hysterical, just screaming. I'll never forget looking at them, and my mum, (who) had been running the bath, heard him yell. She came running out to see him lunge and told him to get out.”
After the split, Sue went to access the couple’s joint bank account and found she had only 18 cents left to her name.
She then realised there would probably be no Christmas that year for her girls.
Please donate to help give hope to a family like Sue's.
“There’s so much lead-up to Christmas, with the kids so excited, saying Santa’s coming and we are going to get presents,” Sue says. “So to think I wouldn’t be able to give them anything was really hard. Personally, for me it didn’t matter, but thinking my children were going to miss out was really hard.”
Sue continues: “I knew Rose (the Salvation Army’s Community Engagement Worker at Sue's local Savos) because my friend used to work for her. Rose is just a beautiful person and she’s always there to help anyone who needs it. She put together a package for me and my girls. It was a huge help with Christmas being so close and having absolutely nothing. It was amazing.
“Rose gave us a food hamper and presents for the girls and clothing. I went home and showed my mum and I started crying. I couldn’t believe it.
“The next day Rose rang me and asked if my girls and I wanted to go to Aussie World (a theme park in Queensland that has been providing a special day prior to Christmas for those in need, in conjunction with The Salvation Army for more than a decade).
“I was just amazed. She said it was all free and lunch was included. When I got down there, it was huge. There were so many people and a massive Christmas roast lunch. Oh my girls absolutely loved the day! Now, every time we go past Aussie World, the girls get so excited (still),” she laughs.
Sue says that through such a tumultuous time, to see her daughters’ beaming faces “meant so much”.
“There were beautiful handmade timber toys, dolls, an activity table; a massive teddy bear the girls just love – oh, there was heaps and it was really good quality stuff. And Aussie World was just so much fun,” Sue recalls.
And the help did not stop there.
“Through the domestic violence and the family breakdown, Rose was there through everything. I could talk to her about anything at all. At one point she organised help to pay my bills … it has been really hard. ”
Sue now holds down a fulltime job, but has desperately struggled to rebuild her life.
“I never in a million years would have pictured myself as a single mum and being in the situation I was in. My parents have been married for 33 years, so I always imagined I would have what my parents have or what my brother has,” she says.
“It was a lot to come to terms with. It flipped my life upside down … and it can happen in an instant.”
Still rebuilding her life, Sue says: “Again this year, for Christmas, The Salvation Army has given us a hamper of gifts and food. It just helps bring the spirit of Christmas. It gives my girls things I can’t. So when I’m struggling to put gifts under that Christmas tree for them and to give them that exciting happy experience of Christmas.
“To have someone there to be able to help when you can’t, it means a lot. Everyone wants to see their children smile and everyone wants to give their children the best that they possibly can. When you can’t do it, to have someone stand up and say, ‘Hey we’re here, we’ll help you give your children that smile’ – as a parent, it just means so much.”
Speaking to donors, Sue says: “When you donate, you probably don’t think it does anything, but the impact that it can have on someone going through personal issues, or having financial difficulties, or that can’t give their children a Christmas present – it’s a huge impact. People that donate Christmas hampers and stuff are amazing people … I wish that I’d been able to find out who gave us a hamper because I just owe a huge debt to them.
“It takes a really good person to do that for someone else.
“People are trying to do Christmas for their own families and yet they still find the time and the funds to help somebody else. When I’m in the position with the extra funds, I plan to ‘adopt a family’ myself and sort of give back what has been given to me.”
Sue says the process of healing and rebuilding after domestic violence and after losing everything you had worked for is a long and ongoing process and support along the road can make all the difference.
“Without the Salvos, I don’t know where we would be or how things would have turned out. They’ve been a huge godsend,” she says.
By Naomi Singlehurst