On 21 December, our staff distributed goody bags to elderly folk in a number of housing estates in Singapore. One of our team members shares his thoughts…

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Every year, at Christmas, we will have an office party with lots of food, fun and laughter. The party usually ends with a gift exchange between the staff, where we would take turns to pick gifts out of a bag.

This year, however, there was a slight difference. While we still had our traditional office Christmas lunch (with lots of food, fun and laughter), there was no gift exchange…and yet, the experience was a more fulfilling and sobering one.

During the planning for this year’s Christmas party, someone suggested doing away with the gift exchange, and using the money to help others instead of buying gifts for one another.

Thanks to one of our staff who made contact with TOUCH Community Services, we were able to be a part of their ongoing effort to help the needy and less fortunate. The idea was to buy daily necessities and groceries, and bless the elderly who were living — often alone — in the poorer estates in Singapore.

For two days, we packed and distributed goody bags to 130 homes. Each bag contained toiletries and food items. Since it was the Christmas season, a few of the ladies in the office also baked Christmas goodies to be included in the bags as well.

As we made our way through the estates, we set out to spread some Christmas cheer and bless those we came into contact with. However, we did not realize that we were the ones who would be blessed instead.

As we handed the gifts to the elderly and chatted with them a bit, we were really touched by their generosity as many opened the doors to their homes for us to enter, with some even offering us a drink. They lived simply. Some of them earned a living by collecting and selling junk or cardboard for recycling. Many of their homes were hardly furnished, stacked high with keepsakes or items they collected, and were not in the cleanest of conditions. It was four in the afternoon, and some had not yet had lunch as the delivery service they depended on was delayed. Some were ill, or were recovering from recent surgeries. Yet, they all came to the door with smiles beaming on their faces and shook our hands warmly as we wished them a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

If you ever needed something to snap you out of the materialism and commercialism that Christmas has become, this was it. It was in stark contrast to something I read online right after Christmas, about people complaining that they did not get an iPhone, or if they did, that it was not in the right color.

This Christmas, as I reflected on this experience, for the first time in a long while, I was truly grateful for all I had. Family, friends, a nice meal, a warm bed. These are things we often take for granted, that we do not realize we have been blessed with.

Even though I did not get any presents for Christmas, I have never felt more blessed. I am not sure how much difference we made to the lives of the elderly folk that we met, but I am thankful we were able to bring some cheer — however little — to them.

Paul wrote in Acts 20:35, “…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

After all these years, I think I finally understand what Jesus meant.

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