Christmas here is like Christmas most everywhere else. Thanks to benefactors, humanitarians and volunteers, the mood for some 300 residents at Mitch’s Place and Emmaus House is festive and fulfilling, including an elderly lot at Evergreen Place and those at Jericho House Safe Haven. That number includes 100 children under the age of 15 where Christmas matters most.
Gifts are donated graciously, but not the kind you might expect from today’s adolescents. The Xboxes and computer games are replaced by the simple and basic needs like a good pair of shoes and a winter’s coat to keep you warm.
“Many times, the parents don’t include themselves,” Murphy points out. “They go without just so their children can be happy.”
Many will break bread in the dining hall. Others might dine in the comfort of their own suites. Volunteers from Jewish organizations stop by to offer camaraderie and fellowship. Look up the word “Emmaus” in your Bible and you’ll appreciate the meaning.
It’s very evangelical when people from assorted backgrounds live and bond together under one roof and offer a kind word when it’s needed most. People who need their morale lifted suddenly find sustenance. And so many give back from which they received.
Murphy tells of a woman who gives up her $1,000 Christmas bonus to Emmaus each year because the agency helped rejuvenate her life when it was staggering. Sometimes, it’s a house fire. Other times, a job loss. We’re all susceptible, vulnerable — all a paycheck away sometimes from being vacated.
Recessions, cutbacks, economic strife, family discord. Sometimes a shoulder to lean upon or a listening ear is the greatest gift money cannot buy. I learned that for myself when I, too, tried finding my way through an abyss when I put that newspaper series together on homelessness.