Simple Acts of Kindness
“The thing that amazes me is how little it takes to make a big difference to someone’s life. The joy and hope the people get out of our gifts, is out of all proportion to the size of the gift itself!” – Pam Wilkes
Pam Wilkes has been distributing Christmas cheer as a Salvation Army volunteer for more than 40 years. However, the stories people share with her every Christmas still bring her to tears.
On their second day of toy distribution last year, Pam was reminded of the incredible impact simple acts of kindness can have on the lives of others.
“That day was a most amazing day of ministry – there were so many prayers, tears, hugs. I couldn’t look at our corps officer, or he at me, or it would set off the tears again and again,” says Pam, a soldier of The Salvation Army church in Bathurst.
“Everyone we spoke to had a heartbreaking story – of being a single parent fleeing a domestic violence situation, or a single dad with a lot of issues really struggling to raise his children. There were a couple of grandmothers who were raising their grandkids and also struggling with the heartache their children (the parents of the grandkids) were facing.”
Pam says the demand is growing each year. “It’s hard and I believe it is getting harder. There are growing economic pressures – factors like housing, healthcare, school costs, power, and the technology needed for school work.”
Last Christmas, the Bathurst Salvos distributed toys to more than 200 families.
“We get schools ringing us up with toys to collect, families dropping in, pensioners who’ve been down the street doing their shopping and have bought a few extra things and dropped them off on the way home. It is a lovely, lovely response from the community,” says Pam.
“We were also able to put out tables of gifts for adults (mainly through boxes of gifts sent up from Sydney). So we were able to invite the parents and grandparents who came in – after they had selected things for their kids – to select some gifts for themselves and/or their partners.
“The number of people who just looked at me in amazement – especially the women – and burst into tears at the thought of being given something for themselves was quite beautiful.”
After four decades of helping at Christmas, in one form or another, Pam is convinced that the process of connecting is as important as the gifts given.
“A lot of these parents and grandparents are in situations with a lot of associated isolation. Many need to get out and share and unburden, but find it hard to do so.
“Coming in to us is conducive to opening up and we encourage that. The stories just come tumbling out, the tears start to flow and for many it really seems to be a special time of release and affirmation that ‘someone really does care’!”
Pam says sometimes the set-up and organisation prior to Christmas can all seem a lot of work for a very small group of volunteers.
“It is a lot of work, but really, the time and effort we spend is nothing – it is a drop in the ocean – compared to what the families who are struggling get out of it. That really is huge!”
By Naomi Singlehurst
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail,” Lamentations 3:21-22 (NIV).
We have hope that comes from God. How will you share this hope this Christmas?