Countdown to Christmas blessings
“The most meaningful thing we can give in our lives is love and the wonderful thing is you give it with no expectation of a return, but you usually get back so much more.” -- Dianne
Dianne was incredibly proud, but not surprised when her “beautiful, big-hearted” seven-year-old daughter Isabelle asked if instead of receiving her annual chocolate advent calendar, she could put a piece of food or small gift away every day to make up a hamper for a family in need.
‘Izzy’ had recently seen some YouTube footage of people giving themselves a daily treat as a form of Christmas advent calendar and wondered why she couldn’t do something like that, but for a struggling family.
Her 13-year-old brother decided to join in and so Dianne gave them each a quality food item or small gift daily to put into a laundry hamper each; plus a couple of backpacks.
Compassion out of hard times
Following a business closure in early 2016, the family had faced some tough times themselves and understood what it was like to do without. They had stayed afloat largely through Dianne’s job and Dianne’s husband then found other employment, but the closure cost the family a great deal.
“The kids were great,” Dianne says, “but they would sometimes come home and say ‘so and so has this new toy or game’, and we would say ‘that’s great darling, but just think about how much you still DO have. And through that really started talking to the children a lot about those who are less advantaged, issues such as homelessness, plus appreciating what we have.”
As they were making up the hampers, and wondering how to get it to a family; a customer at Dianne’s work suggested the Salvation Army’s Brisbane Streetlevel Mission. (The service offers drop in, meals, advocacy and referral, spiritual support for often highly disadvantaged people.)
The family spoke to staff and arrived at Streetlevel at mealtime, meeting many who were homeless and who have nothing.
“The kids were just really humbled,” Dianne shares. “My son said he had not realised just how many people are homeless and have absolutely nothing!”
When the family then met struggling family David, his now wife Vanessa; their pre-schooler and baby, and gave them the Christmas hampers, there were many tears and hugs.
David and Vanessa were in the process of beginning to completely rebuild their lives after losing absolutely everything to addiction.
They had been working hard, volunteering extensively to help others, but had very little themselves. David had recently finished a diploma in community services and counselling to help others in the future and hopes to help replicate the Streetlevel model in another high-needs area.
He says: “The gifts were a really big surprise. It was a really huge thing for us and meant so much.
“Actually after we met them and they gave the two big hampers to us, they went out and bought more (nappies and toys) and dropped it off to our house (as we have no car) which was really, really nice. They are really lovely people,” David says.
For Dianne the first Christmas ‘advent hampers’ will not be the last
“I’ve talked about the advent basket to my girlfriends and they are now all keen to do the same with their kids,” she says. “I also love working for Westpac. They really do support the community and my manager and our regional manager are now also totally on-board to help out.
“I just think it’s a beautiful thing to do. I think having an advent basket as small or big as you can make it is a lovely build up to Christmas,” she says.
By Naomi Singlehurst