Those that keep silence, suffer more
This year my husband and I agreed to spend Christmas apart. Fear not, this is no dramatic announcement of impending divorce, but rather a reflection on the bloated airfares during the season of goodwill. In due time, I will tell of why we presently live one on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, but for now I will keep my council. It was my very own idea and I feel that it was a worthy protest, though I imagine it was inconsequential to the point of silence to those responsible for pumping up the prices with such unfettered glee.
Unwilling to risk being peeved by my own decision, I settled on a different solution to the celebrations than sitting in solitary splendour brooding over a meal for one all the while being eyed meaningfully by The Beady Greedy Bean.
In France, as in many other countries, la veille de Noël (Christmas Eve) is traditionally the biggest celebration. A large and lengthy meal with your loved ones culminates in the stealthy arrival of Père Noël (insert your own word for the snowy bearded wonder with grandeose paunch and snazzy white fur-trimmed scarlet suit) who soundlessly leaves gifts around midnight. It is a time of great joy and festivity for most but for others, to many others, it is a sad, solitary night, a time to dwell on past pleasures and the knowledge that there is little solace in the idea that the sun will rise again on the morrow. I speak of the old and alone. Those whom, for whatever reason, have no-one to care for them, those that subsist on tiny incomes and those that tend to be invisible to the masses. So I signed up to assist the Big Christmas Eve dinner laid on by a wondrous charity called Les Petits Frères des Pauvres. Translated as ‘Little Brothers of The Poor’ you may recognise the international federation it belongs to. If you don’t, I urge you to check it out for yourself. If you feel so inclined.
Donning the compulsary Bonnet de Père Noël, but fortunately no beard nor plumping suit, I had three seniors to collect from their homes, because I had also volunteered my car named Franck. I had one gregarious gentleman (aged a twinkling 98 if you please) and two lovely ladies (87 and 89 respectively). I delivered them to the venue, parked Franck and then joined the, incidentally mostly millennial, gang to serve dinner, play games, sing songs and greet Père Noël bearing gifts at midnight. Before we started and after we had seated our table after table of venerable guests there was a silence to remember those who fell serving in the Résistance. Grenoble is one of three cities and two villages awarded the Ordre de La Libération at the end of The Second World War and it is hard to describe how moving it was, that moment of respect standing head bowed amongst those who were directly touched by the indescribable bravery of those who refused to be cowed.
It was 2 a.m when I finally took my exhuberant and energetic charges home to their still silent dwellings. We had sung songs I knew and others I didn’t, played games that had to be explained to me and others that were comfortingly familiar and danced polkas they foot-perfect, I flat-footed. I feel tremendously priviliged to have been allowed to join in and to give beaming cheer where otherwise there would have been the bitter chill of loneliness in a world that too often scurries past rather than observing, for a moment, and perhaps acknowledging that, if we are deserving of conviviality and gaety and levity and simple companionship, then they surely are too. The waning years of human life should not label the bearer untouchable and past your sell-by date and fit to be cast into a metaphoric bin as though your odour is no longer tolerable.
I was motivated to share this moment by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge labelled ‘Silence’ and as ever you can view, if you feel disposed to, the far more meritorious entries to the gallery here.
The picture was taken in Massachusetts in February 2016. Of course the United States has seen far more than it’s share of snow this winter season and the fat lady is not ready for the final song yet. I imagine, amongst all the chaos and hardship such weather induces, there has been that sense of muffled stillness that snow produces. That softly muted quiet that I love. Because silence can certainly be golden. It can also be heartbreakingly heavy.
PS: The title is taken from C S Lewis that wisest, gentlest most considered of scolars. He said ‘I have learned now that while those that speak out about their misery usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more’ … I recommend to everyone that, apart from the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, you should read his work more widely and that his letters, published in several volumes to the many he corresponded with contain much wisdom, whatever your beliefs or views on faith and spirituality. That aside, I did, of course that morning in the woods, feel that I had stepped into the kingdom of Narnia.
There is a second part to my Christmas which I will chronicle separately in due course
And your bonus: The Tremeloes singing ‘Silence is Golden’. Although Frankie Valley and his Four Seasons recorded it first, this is the version as an English girl that I remember best.
Osyth, your kindness and compassion, not to mention your literary skill, shines through so brightly in this post. What an incredibly fulfilling way to spend Christmas, giving back to others like this, those who might otherwise be totally forgotten. A wonderful response to the WPC theme this week.
It really was fulfilling. What I gained outweighs the tiny thing I gave (time) by a huge factor. I shall do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you for the compliment to my writing – you are far too kind!
Beautifully written. Beautifully done. I like your contrasting reflections on silence.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Derrick. As you know I value your opinion highly. In terms of volunteering, what really struck me was that most of the team were young and they were willing to give up one of the most important nights of the year to ensure that those who would have a hollow night had fun and laughter (and jolly good food) and that was really wonderful.
Yes, indeed, Osyth
What a wonderful thing to do! I am sure you felt so good having no doubt brought a little happiness to a time that when alone can be very sad and depressing.
I hate the idea of people being left to fester whilst others are surrounded by love and laughter. It just felt the right thing to do and I will do it again in a heartbeat 🙂
You are an angel 😇
And you are far too kind. 💕
In the true spirit of Christmas, you devoted your time and compassion to be with people in need, at such a special time of year. Your heart is of gold Osyth, and they were very lucky to have you there that Christmas Eve. Xx
I felt that I was the lucky one, honestly. It was joyous and such fun and they were delightful. I will do it again in a heartbeat … xx
I had a feeling you would do something wonderful like this over the holidays, and I’m guessing you got more out of it than you felt you sacrificed. Oh what a night! Oh what a blessing! Oh what a Fiona!! 👍😉❤️
I sacrificed nothing at all … I gave some time that would have been occupied watching rubbish on television probably. I gained SO much – honestly I will do it again in a heartbeat. You are very kind to me Jodi, I think you would have done exactly the same! xo
I meant the sacrifice of not being with your hubby or family. But somehow I knew you would question any sacrifice too! You are pure inspiration ☺️
It was my choice. Not an easy choice but the right one 🙂
How very fitting a reminder in a world so cold. Never forget the ones who came before, who suffered the most, and cared enough to give all for little. My father was one.
Lest we forget. The quiet unsung heroes who gave us the world we live in.
I love the elderlies, I have a gaggle of them as neighbours and they are excellent company.
And its all relative; At my present advanced age I would consider myself ancient if my child self met me.
Me too …. we are an aged community in Marcolès … they call me a young woman (!) but those that are truly advanced in their years have so much to give and to teach. What I loved most was that most of the team were actually aged 18-30 so I was really the rather hoary sister rather than a little brother!!
This was so nice of you. What a great way to spend Christmas. This particular generation is such a treasure. I would have loved hearing their stories. And regarding the airfares – they are crazy. I do see some decent rates for February. Merry Christmas Belated!
The best bit was my old gent on the way home, full of wine and brandy waving out of the window at all and sundry wending their way home and the two ladies in the back telling him to stop being such an old fool but through joyous laughter. They felt like a party of school children and I felt useful, somehow. It honestly started out as a protest but it also meant my husband would be able to spend time with his son which was lovely. In the end there were many smiles and that is always a good ending 🙂
Sounds like a scene from a sweet movie. Time is the oddest thing we have to come to grips with. I hope they had a great time. And hope you get to the states to visit the hubby soon.
You are kind. As it happens he arrived here on Wednesday evening and we are supposed to be driving to England together to see the family but the threatened Government shut down will put paid to that if it happens tonight because he is a ‘critical federal employee’ – bah!
Awesomeness! I’m sure the government will find the funds – they always do 🙂
Have a great time together.
We are! Thank you so much 😊
That is the true Christmas spirit. Bravo for participating.
Silence can be all too quiet when it’s imposed.
It was selfish, really – I preferred to be doing than enduring my own silence. However, the plight of the elderly has always weighed heavy on me and it felt the right thing to do. Silence is too quiet when it is not chosen …. we should do what we can to alleviate it 🙂
Wonderful post Osyth. The suffering of ordinary French civilians is so often overlooked, I know from my husband’s family’s experiences in Normandy. We live on the edge of the ‘chemin de la Resistance’ and hope to do this sometime when work at ‘the camp’ allows.
Again, I am behind with your posts and out of sync, but the title of this one urged me to open it before the others.
Going back to the house in a couple of hours, so no net once more (this is why I am getting so far behind) But all good here, let me know if you are coming up to town anytime soon, so we can have our day at the Pantheon.
I’m glad you enjoyed it. The old are in the same boat the world over and I fully intend to do this again wherever I happen to be. Yes, you are on the edge of le Chemin. If you get the chance, go first to le Vercors. That is humbling. I am due in Paris for a few hours on Tuesday, it seems. I guess you will be at la Liberllule but if that changes, let me know and email me your phone number x
Ah just seen this, as rightly guessed I was at Les Libs – was back yesterday, but working at St Antoine. will e mail you my mobile and fixed phone now x
Got it! Will respond by mail x
This brought tears to my eyes. Ever since I was a child I have felt the infinite sadness of the lonely elderly. I’m pleased there are people like you who get off their bums and do something to help make their loneliness bearable.
For me, the absolutely most wonderful thing was that the majority of the ‘team’ were aged 18-30 an age group that get’s a lot of bad press. I was more of a slightly hoary sister than a little brother but I can tell you, I am absolutely going to do it again – it simply isn’t fair that people reach the twilight of their life to be left to fossilise in solitude. And the joy – honestly …. these dudes could party … I was dead on my feet, they were wanting more and more!
Two in the morning! I’m well past my best by then. That you got so much enjoyment out of it says a lot about you, and yes, youf does have a bad press, but there are so many many excepetions.
I don’t like assumptions and one of the great assumptions is that all millennials are an entitled bunch of uncaring shallow fools. 2 a.m taxed me quite a lot but these were a rumbustious lot and all the better for it. I guess if it’s a rare opportunity they were not going to let it slide!
I think one of the things we tend to overlook is that anyone older than a millennial falls into the category of settled, parent or ‘in a relationship’, professional, worker, etc. and this demographic is notorious for having the ‘not my problem’ attitude. It’s usually couched in the ‘my first responsibility is to my family’ terms but the end result is the same. Benevoles in associations are almost all retired people from the fonction public, all with years of working life left in them (but that’s another story) with a comfortable pension and loads of time on their hands. They are the people who we praise for their generosity but, damn it, they can afford to be generous with their time! Kids who give their time that is archi full of a million other things, get my respect.
Precisely – there were none of those in the team …. just a few elders like me and lots of youngsters. All Hail the young who will!
Good for them!
I love your interpretation of silence, use of the silent time on a potential silent night🎵, and creating the opportunity of a silent break in life. Beautiful and healthy balancing!
Thank you so much …. balance is all though sometimes it is hard to know how to achieve it. I feel I was fortunate to have the opportunity. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the post 🙂
The beauty and quiet of the first day of a snow fall is truly to be savored Thinking of myself as living past my expiration date injects a lot of humor into the situation. I definitely am going to steal this line too.
I’m glad you liked that, Bernadette …. if one can’t laugh 😉
Ma belle cousine, c’etaiit vraiment tres gentille faire ca! Donner du temps est plus precieux que l’argent! Je t’aime.
Merci ma belle cousine …. gros bisous à toi
Strange as it may sound, it is often, when I am surrounded by the trappings of holidays and get-togethers, that I yearn for silence and solitude. It’s not that I don’t like being around family and friends, I do, but I also marvel in quietness. Maybe, however, that will change when there aren’t as many people around me me and it’s quiet all the time.
I agree with you – it can get overwhelming. I guess it’s all in the balance – like most of life!
I will echo what Miriam said that this post showcased youe brilliant literary skills…your gift of story telling is one of a kind…and i would say its a worlwide phenomena that airline tickets skyrocketed during the Christmas season because most families here also have to spend christmas apart..
I know about the Air tickets. It’s a global thing and the lack of compassion and greed of the airlines makes me furious. You are very very kind about my writing and I am humbled because you know how highly I rate your own writing ✍️
Yes Osyth…i was thinking if only one day we will wake up to the news that airline tickets or any forms of transportion for that matter will be cheaper during Christmas season…to give families the chance to be together on that special month of the year..based on my observation in our country it’s not the distance that seta families apart during christmas; but rather it’s the transportation fares..and my oh my its making me furius too…
A shot of kindness would be so wonderful ….
Oh, Osyth — your Christmas Eve sounds so wonderful. What a privilege to be able to do that!
On the topic of Silence, I took a picture from my bedroom window the other morning, intending to post it, but probably won’t. The birch trees were laden with fat fluffy snow that had fallen — and, to me, it captured the spirit of Silence. Why? — I couldn’t tell you. The plows, grating the road a few feet away, broke the silence in a most unpleasant way, and took my brother’s mailbox with them. But the birches were lovely.
Narnia — yes. I just need a lamppost to stick in the woods.
Snow covered birch trees are one of the most beautiful sights in life. I’m sorry about your brother’s mailbox and the rude sound of that Plough before it annihilated it. I was raised in Oxford and C S Lewis is never far from your consciousness there. I love his words, his thoughtful and never forceful way. That letter was written when after ‘Grief Observed’ which I still find to be both the most touching and the most useful of texts on grief. I read one of his sermons last night and almost used a quote from it but it was less overt than the words I used. If I ever have my own woodland, I will make sure there’s a lamppost and you are welcome to join me in Narnia to be the force of good
I was so looking forward to hearing of your Christmas, and I was not disappointed. It sounds like you had a ball. How wonderful to meet such spritely ladies and gentlemen who clearly have such a zest for life.
The 89 year old instructed me to take spirulina every day and told me the pharmacist gives it to her under the counter … they were an absolute blast and I will do it again in a heartbeat! That you enjoyed hearing about it makes me very happy 😊
Oh what fun. I have never taken spirulina. I must give it a try. x
Oh you must … the French are devotees of it. I use the powder rather than the capsules – it turns such an amazing colour when mixed with anything! X
So beautiful!!! I absolutely love your writing and view of the world. I know I’ve been MIA…as a writer on my own blog and as a reader of others’…but a New Year resolution is to slow down and engage more. I’m so grateful to have your words and world view to turn to to help me fulfill this goal! Bonne année!
You are FAR too kind but I am delighted that you enjoy what I write and the perpective I tend to come from. MIA is entirely forgivable and I rather think you have been hobnobbing in my home city in England 😉 I will be delighted to see more of you but only if you have the time and in turn I do hope that you have time to write because, as you know, I am a fan of your words indeed. Je tu souhaite une très Bonne Année … mes meilleurs vœux et surtout le santé x
Thank you for sharing your Christmas experience. One more door opened to all of the endless color of living.
I enjoyed it so much and I was grateful to have the opportunity.
What a wonderful way to spend Christmas. I applaud you, dear friend. How joyous to spend Christmas in a way that Christ would done himself. It is a wonderful mix of pagan and Christian traditions. You will have many Christmas’s with your beloved but this one will always be special. K x
Thank you. It just felt like the right thing to do. An aging temptress sitting long-faced with her dog didn’t really appeal and this was such fun. Your overview of the event is highly appropriate given that France is basically a nation of lapsed Catholics! I was grateful to be able to find the purpose in the way things are and not allow myself to sit in a solitary doldrum! X
Brigit Bardot is an ageing temptress. You, my dear, are in your prime! 😻
The refrain “Silence is golden, but my eyes still see” speaks so much to the experience of our elders. So much to love in your post, Osyth but as always its your storytelling that engages. What a way to make lemonade out of the lemon of separation from your family! We don’t travel at Christmas anymore choosing to go see my family in western Canada at times when we can get seat sales. And travel at Christmas is so the opposite of peace on earth and goodwill to all!
Those old people were a real treasure trove. I had so much to feel grateful for and no hope of sitting dwelling on being separate from Two Brains. We can all make lemonade if we have the willingness – I was fortunate to be able to find the purpose in the way things were. Travel at Christmas is not worth the effort and the debt it piles up though I do understand people’s feeling of need to do it ….
My mother taught us all very well about helping out with the old folk, when she was, herself, far older than most she was helping. It is a very worthwhile pursuit, and as many generations have discovered, putting the extreme generations together works wonders. Little children, and elderly, work so well together, and each gain a tremendous amount from the other.
What a brilliant idea of yours. It obviously gave you great joy, and many older folk a Joyeux Noel.
I would have loved your mother, that’s a fact. And the very young and the very old – yes, a magical combination. The idea actually came in a roundabout way rather than a flash of inspiration but you have to wait for part two for that (always leave them wanting more 😉)
A wonderful idea and gesture on your part and certainly a better idea than spending Christmas on your own. This organization does the same thing in Montreal but I think it is a bit before Christmas.
I do have lovely memories of spending Christmas Eve evening with a friend and his family the last few days we spent in Paris. He had been kind enough to include us in his family gathering as otherwise we would have been on our own…(Suzanne)
Yes, they exist in Boston also …. I don’t know what they do or when but they are certainly a wonderful charity. What a lovely friend you had there and what a lovely memory to treasure!
This sounds like a very good way to spend Christmas and in keeping with the spirit of the season. I like the homage to the Resistance. My favorite writer is Albert Camus. He is known as a great novelist and essayist, but he also was the editor of Combat, the underground newspaper of the Resistance.
Oh yes, I know Albert Camus’ work very well. Good taste, sir. The Resistance has been an area of interest to me for a long time but living in Grenoble has heightened it and given the opportunity to learn much more. If you type ‘Long Time Passing’ into the search box on this blog you will find an article that might interest you
Thanks for the tip.
A terrific story and bravo to you for bringing holiday cheer to those who need it most
It was a simple deduction really … sit in on my own and potentially feel quite blue or go and give a bit. As it turned out, I had the time of my life and I would do it again in a heartbeat 💗
What a wonderful thing you did Osyth, there was an advert showing here in the uk before Christmas where an elderly man was alone going to the shop every day and one day it was shut (Christmas day) he shuffled home and watched while the family next door welcomed their family in. It broke my heart every time I saw it. i really admire you and it shows the type of person you are. The photograph in the woods, well its beautiful and yes I can see how it resembles Narnia and with the snow, shows the silence along with some heaviness. Lovely post. I’m sorry I’ve been a bit rubbish lately at keeping up so I have a few posts to catch up with x
Life is allowed to take precedence over reading blog posts 😉. The elderly are so often overlooked but it can take some courage to reach out to them. One doesn’t want to interfere or intrude. My mother used to take an age to walk from one end of our village to the other, always stopping to pass the time with this or that old person. One day my younger brother, aged about 5 said ‘you DO know lots of people, Mummy’ to which she replied ‘ actually I don’t really know any of them but you see this might be the only conversation they have all week’. I never forgot it. The Charity does a wonderful thing and I had a wonderful time …. I would do it again in a heartbeat x
Lovely 😊 x
That was a lovely gesture on your part, and it also sounds like a wonderful way to spend Christmas Eve. I am acutely conscious of the number of elderly people on their own just in our little corner of France. Thankfully, most of them have children who rally round at the important times of year. More often than not, though, these people are lonely on a day-to-day basis. Our elderly neighbour, whose wife died two years ago, told us that, apart from his family and a Parisian who has a holiday home nearby, we are the only people who visit him. I felt quite indignant that the local people who have known him for years just seem to have written him off.
I enjoyed it far more than I would have enjoyed sitting on my own eating une caille! I am saddened by your observation. How little it takes to give some time to a lonely widower and yet, I fear that in most places those that are prepared to give it are far outweighed by those that turn their backs.
We always feel guilty that we don’t visit him often enough. But he is very hard to understand (even his French sister-in-law says that) and quite deaf, so I have to bellow to be heard. Since he is almost 90, you learn a lot about life here in times past and the SF and I can normally piece it together between us afterwards!
You are lovely people and you give him pleasure and that is really to be celebrated. And you hit the nail on the head with what you say. The old have so much knowledge that they take for granted but which will be lost. He is a living history book … you, the historian and I am so glad for your kindness
It must have been so hard to spend the special time of the year away from your beloved HB2. But that said, you did spend it in a way that made others feel treasured and I bet that made you feel uplifted too. ‘The waning years of human life do label you as untouchable and past your sell-by date and fit to be cast into a metaphoric bin as though your odour is no longer tolerable.’ These lines possibly say it all so poignantly. Salud! And can one leave Narnia behind? I am yet to read all letters of Lewis. xx
I just didn’t want to risk being Grinchy because we were apart hence offering to help. I am SO glad I did – it was such a brilliant experience and left me feeling very warm and content. I will do it again. It’s a certainty and HB2 is head of the queue to join me 🙂 I’m glad you picked that line …. that is how it so often seems and it shouldn’t be like that. Narnia? Never leave it behind and do, when you have time read the letters. I have every volume which is not to say I have read every letter yet – just that I can dip in from time to time. He was a magnificent man.
I shall follow your recommendation and lay my hands on the copies as soon as I am home. As for the first thought, it is heartwarming and wonderful. xx
What a great idea. Hidden in there, of course, is the instant payback aspect, that you found a delightful way to connect with your community — too often we get caught up in thinking only our own little tribe will do — and by so doing, avoided having a lonely Christmas yourself. Well done.
It seemed obvious to me. I was on my own so why not help out. I didn’t know about this particular charity until I spoke to a lady collecting for Resto du Coeur, she took my name and I was contacted by Les Petits Frères. And yes, of course it was a win-win … I hoped that came across in the post – I’m not looking for praise, I did what I could because I could – my real respect went to the young who had places to go and sacrificed for the elderly. They need to be sung loud in high places 🙂
Quite simply superb dear Trunch.
I recall a few years ago doing the same for the elderly to the Sally Army in Oxford although it sounds like you had a much more enjoyable time despite being away from B2.
Hope all is well and much love and respect to you xx
Thank you, Cameron. I just did what seemed obvious given that I didn’t want to feel hard done by. Well done for doing the same in Oxford. The French do know how to party and it is seldom subdued so I shouldn’t have been surprised they were rumbustious 😂 xx
Congratulations for this courageous post Osyth and keep your Balance.(sometimes is very hard)
Thank you …. it is sometimes very hard to keep the balance
What can I say, but to echo the comments of everyone else’s here. You did a very good thing; indeed the right thing.
I’ve come more and more to the belief that happiness is a by-product of usefulness, and I’m sure that in the coming together of kindness and purpose (with food of course, and music), great happiness was made.
Here, the City Mission hosts a Christmas lunch, with around 2000 people turning up. Their volunteer roster is over-subscribed, and, as with your community, wonderfully full of young people. At times like these; I have hope for the future.
Lovely, thoughtful post my friend.
You have hit the nail on the head. Feeling useful instead of sitting with a solitary dinner brooding made me happy. It made me happy that people who would otherwise have been sitting alone were smiling and laughing and having a jolly time. For me, the fact that the young outnumbered the older helpers was the icing on the bun and I am so glad that is mirrored thousands of miles away. We should have hope for the future, we must praise and praise them for wanting to help and then they might guide even more of their peers.
That’s a very good point. I do feel that young people get such bad press, but most I know are kind, compassionate souls who want to do good. They don’t always know how, and definitely, definitely need praise for their efforts. I saw this in action just before Xmas when the boy-child and I dropped off some baking we’d done at the City Mission. We happened to hand it to the Missioner/CEO, who is one of those totally wonderful men who radiates fun and kindness and who “gets” young people. After a short conversation with this guy, my son was walking taller and talking about ways he can do more to help others.
The elders who can communicate naturally with our young are to be praised and exhalted and encouraged with all our might!
@”Because silence can certainly be golden. It can also be heartbreakingly heavy.” – so true… I won’t elaborate, and you do know why… 😉 <3
Thank you Mélanie… yes I do know ❤️
I’m in awe of what you did, though I know you’ll dismiss it as nothing. I’m honestly not sure I’d have the courage to step out of my comfortable little bubble to participate in such a worthy charity, but now you’ve given me an added reason to try: for the sake of acquiring not only a delightful memory but a captivating story to boot. This was a delightful tale from beginning to end. Looking forward to reading part two! 🙂
I could so I did, that simple really. I was delighted with the young who were far more heroic because they did have somewhere to go whereas I was ‘billy no mates’. If you are minded to, you should give it a go … I came away with so many wonderful memories, new friends who I can drop by and see and chat to and who reminded me that life is to be grabbed because boy, can those people party! I found it humbling to be amongst such gratitude for such a small effort. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story …. I found it difficult to write because I did not want at all to be tooting my horn. I hope that came across because I honestly don’t think I did any more than anyone else might.
I sensed no tooting and the humility seemed real, so leave those worries behind you. In truth, your story reminded me that what may seem the more comfortable option is rarely the wisest option. I just hope I can remember that the next time an opportunity arises.
An absolutely brilliant way to have spent Christmas and especially pleasing to know that such events are organised. And yes, CS Lewis deserves much more attention than he gets.
That was the treasure trove … to find that this existed here and that it exists in so many other places. I just want to get some outreach to the remote areas now and then I’ll be happy. We can discuss Lewis anytime, Peggy … his body of work is profoundly wonderful.
It’s been a long time since I read any of his work, but many of his books sit on my bookshelves and get loaned to others.
I can only underline what everybody said before. I know both sides of what you describe. I’m friendly with a woman in her late seventies who is constantly helping others where she can. She is helping at Resto du Coeur (restaurants for poor people, served with heart….) AND when she is not well, or has a problem or needs something, they are ALL there for her. And also, I once, at a particularly sad Christmas in my life, left the house and went to a place for the ‘lonely’ called ‘Christmas for those who are alone’ and just helped with serving the food, accompanying ppl to the toilets, not big things – and it was a wonderful Christmas experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, we always return to our home country for Christmas because it is the only possibility to see as many as possible of our respective families. In 2017 I had a bad fall just before leaving and I wasn’t in a good shape – we couldn’t even visit my son nor any of the ‘usual suspects’ and we returned a day earlier than planned. I said to HH: Why don’t we stay at home next Christmas and go see everybody, let’s say, in the middle of January – we can have our get-togethers then…. I kind of like the idea because it is true: Christmas gets such a stressful occasion because everybody thinks it HAS TO BE on those days, when it doesn’t. I posted a photo of a peaceful little street in Bern, CH with the quote: Christmas is not time, nor season, but a state of mind (Calvin Coolidge) – and silence comes into it very much. I love listening to silence, and nothing is better than a wood in winter, branches heavily covered in fresh snow, all possible little noises are dampened and muffled, you feel so close to God, creation, you feel pure and good, I love it!
Osyth, I liked your photo so much that I just had to use it as wallpaper for HH’s iPad – I shall think of you every time I use it…. And btw; shouldn’t you NOT be on the blog NOW? Just wondering 😉
It’s also funny, I’m not in the least surprised that you did what you did at Christmas; it fits perfectly in my picture I have of you in my heart….. I adore reading you and listening to your voice so beautifully forming those sentences. We’ll talk to each other soon. And you’re always more than welcome to stay at our house when you’re in the Paris region. You really are!
Oh, one last thought: I can’t explain why (having led a very protected and untouched by TV life in Switzerland), I know this song so well, it is as if I had grown up with it (which I haven’t) and I’m sure I haven’t heard it that often on the National Radiostation …. It’s just one of those songs one never forgets! Always liked it and those boys are so ‘innocent and cute’. Has a lovely place on my ‘memory bank’.
Thank you for your comment, Kiki – I am touched that you have written so much. I know Resto du Coeur very well, in fact it was as I was giving some food to a lady collecting in the local supermarket that I plucked up courage to say that I was alone at Christmas and wondered if she could tell me how I might volunteer. She took my details and Les Petits Frères contacted me the next day. I honestly loved every minute of it and I would do it again and again and probably will. My husband has already said we should do it next year. Travelling to family is entirely forgivable and there is no judgement from me. It was just not feasible this year. I love that song. The Four Seasons version is probably better known outside Britain but that is the one I remember. I would have been six which is probably why – as we know, I am actually permanently six!
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it said of old age that you’re only as old as you feel. Now that I’m an octogenarian, I can truly say that, no matter how young I still feel, the body has a mind of its own, and every so often, it reminds me that “mind over matter” doesn’t always work — but when it does, it’s a great life (as the song says in my latest post).
As for SILENCE IS GOLDEN, I enjoyed the song, and would like to share this Samuel Butler quote: “Silence is not always tact, and it is tact that is golden, not silence.”
Aging is not always kind. The old adages that are trotted out are all very well but the fact is that age brings all sorts of challenges. Loneliness should not be one of them. Of course some prefer to be left alone but I think most enjoy some human contact (even me and I’m a notorious hermit). I’m glad you liked the song … I love that quote and have written it down.
You mentioned to me that you would be doing this on Christmas Eve, and it sounds as wonderful as you had anticipated. As you say, you were very privileged to be among people who had been through so much, and I’m sure they appreciated the gesture you made for them and the care and support you gave them. I’m looking forward to hearing about the second part of your Christmas.
Btw, did you know that the Tremeloes release of Silence Is Golden was their follow up to Here Comes My Baby, originally written and performed by a certain Cat Stevens? They knew how to steal a good song! xx
It was you who said I should write it so I have you to thank. For me it was just a question of I could so I did. I definitely gained more than I gave and the greatest joy, apart from the enjoyment of the elderly in contrast to the loneliness that they might have endured, was the young who had genuinely given up a party to be there. I had given up a night in with the dog! I love Cat Stevens’ song but yes, it was The Tremeloes version I would have heard first. The strapline of UKAEA was ‘Be Second First’ for a while … perhaps it was invented by The Tremeloes 😉 xx
I’m glad you did, it was a lovely, moving piece. Sounds like everyone had a good time.
Cat’s version was only an album track, I think. The Tremeloes deserve that soubriquet, they also did a Beatles cover but it wasn’t a hit xx
It was actually a hoot. I have the CS version on a Greatest Hits I bought for the car.
I imagine you might do it again, if time and circumstances permit. You could probably start a taxi business on the back of this, call it something like l’Uber, and play them Cat Stevens songs. Sounds like a plan 😉 xx
I can see this working xx
Sounds like your Christmas was just as it really should be, focused on kindness and filled with laughter and joy. What a wonderful thing to do for your fellow beings. Now, imagine how those memories will gently warm their hearts for a long time to come, and yours as well I suspect from your writing. You are indeed a lovely person all the way through.
The alternative was sitting contemplating the dog 😉 I didn’t know what to expect but now that I know, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I am glad that your expectations turned out to be an good reality.
I am very glad you were able to do this and to enjoy and to help others enjoy.
(As an aside, I personally call him Christmasman and her Christmasmom, but many call them other things.)
I love those names. I may adopt them! Thank you for your kind words – I appreciate them
You did enjoy yourself, didn’t you! I don’t like to think of the revenge of the Bean, though!
This will be covered in part two!! And yes, I loved it …. honestly I think I was the fortunate one!
Love, love, love the photo of the sunlight shining through the trees as if to grace the snow with its presence. That’s exactly what you did for the senior citizens you opted to spend time with on Christmas Eve—you blessed them with your presence. Congratulations on turning your evening, and theirs, into one that will long be remembered. Nicely written and great response to the challenge!
Ooh … too high the praise of the picture, coming from you M’Lady. I could so I did is the truth of it. The alternative was sitting in and contemplating the dog! I’m glad you enjoyed the post … the evening was wonderful and to be recommended to anyone 🙂
As a Hospice volunteer, I understand your “I can, so I do” mentality. And why not? The reward (their appreciative smiles) is so worth it!
Exactly. You are humankind 😊
This morning another thought flitted through my mind, part of a prayer transltated in umpteen languages, written by Antoine de Sait-Exupéry:
Give me enough imagination to be able to share with someone a little bit of warmth, in the right place, at the right time, with words or with silence.
This is you…..
(How come you still occupy my mind on a lazy Saturday morning anyway….?)
I am speechless. Thank you 🙏
Well, that’s a first, I’m sure! 😉 bizzzzzzzous K
Reblogged this on Haddon Musings and commented:
When Osyth wrote the quote about ordinary heroines, she forgot to mention herself.
Thank you Bernadette … you are too kind
What a great way to spend Christmas Eve !! … I think age is nothing but a number because I have a friend who is in his fifties and he’s as innocent as a 6 year old and other people in their 20s or 30s who are very mean and unkind … Thank you for sharing your evening with these wonderful “older” people 😉
That is exactly what I think to. Mean people exist …. ours is to make sure that those that are decent are cared for.
I’m PROUD of you! I say this with ease because I might be (?) a tad older than you.
You accomplished two tasks that night. #1 By freely giving of your time and self to others, #2 you took yourself ‘out of your head’. It never fails.
Beautiful post with a message overflowing with meaning.
Thank you my friend. I am as old as the hills and as young as the fresh water that runs in the streams. Just like you.
Thank you so much for the kind words and link to my post, Nessa – you are far too kind.