Senior caregiving at Christmas can be challenging as much or more so than the rest of the year. Today we present our “Guest Blogger”, the main attraction in the annual Stockings of Joy benefit event designed to bring holiday cheer to seniors in the Raleigh, N.C., area. Today we share the perspective of the main attraction — NAVIGATE NC listens as an actual Stocking tells his story.
I am a Stocking of Joy. I’d like to tell you how I got here, my joy-FULL journey.
Really I began as a bolt of fabric. I came into my own one day when I found out that I would be fashioned into something that would serve a much higher purpose. I felt selected and special.
As it turns out, I and many other holiday stockings had a humble beginning. For some it would go no further, many of us were cut and stitched into very basic stockings. We did not know our fate but something inside told me to wait and anticipate.
A few of us were culled and placed into an order to be delivered in November to Homewatch Caregivers in a place called North Carolina. We went into the box and bided our time. Some of us took the opportunity to grab a nap.
When we were delivered and opened, naturally we listened to discover our whereabouts and determine what might become of us. We overheard some instructions and soon some of us were divided into groups. We learned that we would all be delivered to even more destinations. What did these folks have in mind?
The stockings in my box went to another site, a satellite office maybe? We were soon opened by a coordinator who was to meet with others to arrange a party of some sort. We were to be involved in that party. Not much more was known.
The day for the party came and we found that we were to be decorated — hooray! There was a bevy of folks who came with supplies to be-deck and be-jewel us. They had glitter and glue and stick-ons and pom-poms and bows and ribbon. We were to be adorned! We were very excited and tried to look our best so the person who would take charge of our appearance selected us. When my turn came, I looked right into the eyes of the creative person who was thinking about how to make me more special. We bonded.
Make me special she sure did! She affixed and affronted and manipulated and smoothed me. Sometimes she murmured to herself, but it was mostly about how good I was starting to look or what I might need next. I had all her attention during those working moments. I felt like we were working together as a team for that time. When she finished I was carefully laid out with some of my fellow stockings as the fruits of their labor for the entire group to admire. I have to say we looked really good!
We were then carefully placed in two boxes again and found out we still had another destination. We wondered what more was in our future, what was next?
After a few days we found ourselves shipped to a woman who headed up a women’s group. I overheard some of the delivery folks talking, and it seemed like there was to be an even bigger event and we were to be a big part of it. We waited with great anticipation, ready to put our best foot forward. (That was a stocking joke for those of you who don’t know!)
We ended up in a Grand Hall where there was music and food and people starting to arrive. There were a few who were in charge and many there to volunteer. We heard laughter and greetings among the folks. We saw acceptance and camaraderie, some from folks who knew each other and some who were meeting for the first time. What was going on, we wondered?
I found myself on a table with many other fellow stockings and boy did we look good! We got our bearings again and realized we were at the head table, and our table looked out onto a long line of empty tables. We watched as boxes were placed on or beneath those tables and the result was what looked like sort of an assembly line. These folks seem to have a purpose and a plan. There was an air of anticipation around the room.
I asked the box closest to me what she knew. She said she’d been a collection receptacle in a place of business for more than a month until they brought her here. Another box overheard us and chimed in that they’d been at a social services agency and there they had been filled by generous donors and delivered here also, but why?
That’s when we found out their purpose centered on us! We stockings were key participants in this event. And that’s why we were at the head table; we were to kick off some sort of activity today.
Instructions were given by those in charge. We were to be filled with the items from the boxes down the line of tables by these kind people who had come together for this event. We learned that we would be transformed into the end result for something called “Stockings of Joy.” Another stocking quickly filled us in that this was a county-wide Caregiving at Christmas effort to bring cheer and support to seniors in need in this big county of Wake.
Another stocking had been busy reading name tags on the folks in the room. There were some elder care agencies here, professional types. On top of that there were folks that belonged to this place called the “senior center,” and we could hear some of them talking about the groups and faith communities from which they came, all to join in this event.
I tried to look my very best to make sure that someone special would select to me. I wanted to be the best receptacle I could be and yet part of me was still unsure of either my real purpose or my fate. I was selected by a lady named Joyce, and she was apparently someone with experience in this particular function. She was chatting to a person beside her who seemed to be a first-timer. Joyce told her that we stockings, once filled, would be delivered to persons in need of cheer or supplies or support over the holidays. I was all in.
I went down the line, passed from person to person. They each filled me with useful items like hand cream, lip balm, toothbrushes and paste, candy or a notepad. I saw a deck of cards, nail files, pocket calendars, a Bible, soap and shampoo. I hoped I’d get to hold either hot chocolate or tea; a nice touch, I thought.
Soon I was full and nearing the end of the line. I tried push down my contents so that I might hold a few more small things. The last person, declaring I was full to the brim, carefully placed me in a large carton where I sat proudly among my beautiful contemporaries. This was wondrous alright, and part of the wonder was us pondering the next part of our Caregiving at Christmas journey. Where would we end up, and how would we get there?
Our boxes were placed onto a cart and wheeled outside. My box was loaded into to someone’s car. It was cold, and so we were glad to be made of flannel; we could safely house our content until we got to where we were going next.
The driver of the car took charge and soon we were delivered to a place called The Center for Volunteer Caregiving. (I knew that from hearing them answer their phone in a friendly and professional manner.) What happened next was even more special. We didn’t quite understand it all but we were having quite a ride!
Turns out they, too, were about to have an event, a party maybe? We waited in the corner office. We were pretty certain we still had top billing in whatever was to occur.
The day came for their event, and they referred to it as an “Open House.” They were hosting a gathering for volunteers and professionals that had all worked together over the years as caregivers and for caregivers and seniors too. I thought we might be some kind of prize, present or parting gift. Boy was I wrong.
One by one the volunteers came into the corner office to get us, but we were not for them; they were to take us to yet another place. I thought I may have to commandeer one of the note pads and pens from my contents in order to keep track of all this.
A volunteer selected me and one other stocking. He signed us out on a roster and took ownership of us. Soon we were placed with care onto the front seat of his car and traveling with him. The radio was playing holiday music, and we could hardly keep from singing along – we were immensely happy and simply unafraid. I just knew this was the final ride, the way to my final destination to provide Caregiving at Christmas.
I knew I was ready. In fact, I knew down to the tip of stocking toe that I was to be a very special gift for someone. What an opportunity for me! Talk about “Passing it on,” or “Paying it forward!” That this gift could BE a gift? I thought I could help someone and maybe brighten their day.
Here is where I ended up. I was delivered into the arms of, no, I was presented to a lady named Delores. As Delores took me into her hands, I tried to look my very best. The decorations on me shone brightly. Every particle in my makeup pulled together in that moment so as to convey an exhilarating Caregiving at Christmas feeling. As her eyes gazed upon me, I felt the connection; I think she did too. It was a strong feeling, maybe more than one feeling. Was this pleasure? Was this gratitude? No, this was JOY, and delivered by the Christmas Spirit.
The Spirit, in this case, was neither an emotion nor a thing but a result. This Spirit was real, was here, and had happened all because of people: people all coming together to provide something special for another.
Some of the folks involved in this whole process would never even see each other but each would do their part. It was all choreographed to result in this very moment and to render this wonderful kind of Caregiving at Christmas connection. And here I was, playing a leading role!
Yes, it was with pride and with gratitude that I had become part of Christmas Spirit. I had indeed become a gift but I received a gift, too. I was a Stocking of Joy.