The Holiday Project
This Christmas my husband had to travel for work. His job can be a bit unpredictable so I didn't book a flight home to Missouri. I had a full day planned of perusing happy holiday cheer on social media and basking in self-pity, but plans were altered when one of my kind-hearted D.C. friends had extended an invitation for me to join her in volunteering with The Holiday Project.
The Holiday Project organizes visits to people in hospitals, nursing homes, and other residential institutions. They state, "Our goal is to make visits to people in institutions an integral part of America's Holiday Experience and to bring the spirit of a holiday to people who otherwise would not have a celebration."
It was the first time that I had ever volunteered on Christmas; and it was genuinely inspiring to see so many people of mixed faiths and various walks of life come together to sing a few Christmas Carols, deliver some Christmas Cards and provide a little conversation. While my friend and I mouthed our way through the caroling, we did partake in quite a bit of conversation. We got so wrapped up in conversation with a woman whose husband had been hospitalized for an extended period of time that we lost track of our group despite their attempts to keep us moving.
Maybe small talk isn't your thing? Don't worry. It's not mine either. I basically have two main conversational comfort zones with strangers: 1) Not talking at all and avoiding all eye contact or 2) Extremely in-depth conversation about life and its various meanings. As one might imagine, neither one would be appropriate in this setting. Luckily, my friend is a master of small talk, and it wasn't long before I became more at ease and realized that little more than an introduction was necessary to spark some immediate conversation. We chatted about DC, the weather, the Redskins, their children..grand children.. and great-grand children, their anti-aging skin regimens, and their favorite desserts. Pretty basic stuff.
I have not had the misfortunate of spending extended time in a hospital setting so this experience gave me perspective on the great work that the nurses and hospital staff do. The sick and elderly do not take the holidays off. It also made me realize how many people spend the holidays alone in a room relying on the hospital staff for their sole means of socialization. The Holiday Project is a really great grassroots organization. If there is not an established organizer in your area, it just takes a few folks to start one up. Our leader was very organized and gave all 40+ participants an initial debriefing with important HIPPA information like, "Don't ask why they are here."
My husband and I are adding to our Holiday traditions, and I think this one might just make the list. Happy Holidays to you all, and an extra special thanks to the hospital staff, police, firefighters, and all the other public servants who don't always get to spend the holidays with their loved ones. If you or a loved one spent the season in the hospital, my thoughts are with you and your family!