A lifetime of Christmas kindness and care
Very few people could say they had been a Christmas volunteer all their lives, but for 17-year-old Salvos volunteer Brayden, that is close to the truth. As a baby, Brayden came to The Salvation Army with his parents who volunteered with the Salvos every Christmas (starting before he was born). As soon as he was old enough, Brayden began unpacking and sorting toys.
Last Christmas, (now) 17-year-old volunteer Brayden supported hundreds of community members, by helping out at the North Brisbane Salvation Army’s ‘Lavish’ Christmas support initiative.
“My parents [and] I have been part of the Salvos all my life, and I love it. We are really community driven, and I love being involved and helping out,” Brayden says.
“I loved seeing and meeting all the different people that came through for ‘Lavish’. I was taking the toys out to their cars in wheelbarrows, and I really liked talking to the people who needed help; hearing their personal stories.”
Brayden says what struck him most was the normality of those who needed help at Christmastime. He met so many people whose lives were much like his own, but whose circumstances, such as illness and unemployment, meant they were struggling.
“They were all just everyday, normal people,” he says. “It was lovely connecting with [those] who just needed a bit of extra help because of their situations. It was really nice to be able to help them.
“Some were embarrassed at first, but then we started talking – and by just asking them simple questions – ‘do you play sport, what hobbies do you have,’ it all became really relaxed.”
Brayden gets great joy from volunteering and from the sense of camaraderie with other volunteers.
He also plays in the Salvos’ worship team on bass guitar, and plays drums and sings.
“I love serving not just [at the Salvos] but also in school,” Brayden shares. “I just love serving the community in different ways and hope maybe to be a musician or music teacher one day and [also] stay involved with the Salvos as a youth leader and in the band into the future.
“At Christmastime, seeing people with smiles on their faces coming through and getting presents, they may not have been able to get otherwise, was amazing. That little bit extra just helped them out so much. I didn’t have to spend too much of my own time or money, but what I could do helped make a real difference to others and meant a much happier Christmas.”
Christian faith is a deep motivator for Brayden, and Christmas is a time he feels he is able to respectfully share his faith with others, who may be interested, without pushing it in on them in any way.
He says: “Christmas to me is about connecting with people, with family and with God and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Helping others and sharing why I help at Christmas, is a great way to live out and communicate my Christian faith.”
Brayden does encourage anyone who is looking to reconnect with their faith, or to explore it, to consider attending church at Christmastime.
He says: “I would say to anyone interested, ‘give church a go.’ There will be heaps of different people there who find Christmas a really good time to connect. [For me] Christmas is a great time for me to reconnect with God and others.
“Everyone [is] learning about God, reconnecting with God, or connecting with God and learning about Jesus. It can be life-changing!”
Salvos Youth Minister Brett Scotland says it is exciting to have an age range of volunteers, including teens, helping out at Christmas-time.
“It is really exciting to see the future of our church being carried forward in not just words, but real actions, by young people [including Brayden],” he says. “In all the busyness of their world – school, family, music, sport – they are engaging in church stuff and reaching out to help others. And they are not just doing it, but doing it and enjoying it.
“Brayden is full of energy and is very selfless with his time. He helped at Christmas and then gave up more time to drum in our youth band for a youth camp. He is a highly talented musician with a lot, I’m sure, on his plate. But it is so cool he is allocating that part of his life to join this very important [work] of serving other people.”