As a child being raised by a single mother with five children, we did not have much. Mom always told us, that no matter how hard our life seems there is always someone who is worst off than us. If we see someone who needs help, we should help them. The word volunteer was not a word I ever heard until I was much older. It was just the neighbourly thing to do.
Times were different in the 60’s when I was growing up. We got to know our neighbours and we all looked out for each other. Our friends parents disciplined us as much as their own kids. We lived close to a seniors home, where my brothers and I would walk past them sitting outside on benches. We never saw them talking to anyone or having any visitors.
My family was my mother and my three brothers, so I was always fascinated by older people. I did not have any relatives while growing up. My parents were immigrants to this country, were alone here.
One day I stopped to talk to one of the gentleman. I don’t remember what the conversation was about, but I do remember being fascinated by the stories he told me about his life. I stopped there on a regular basis to spend time with him. After a while some of the other older people took notice of my brothers and I and asked if we would do a favour for them, since we were younger and had more energy, they wanted us to go to the local store and buy them things (cigarettes and candy were the usual requests).
After a while, he asked if I wanted to see his loom. Not knowing what that was, I said “sure”. His room was very small but the loom was enormous. It took up the whole living room space. He explain what the loom was and showed me how it work. I remember spending hours sitting on the floor watching him work the loom while he told me stories of his life.
At Christmas time, my brothers and I would go door to door and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes people would give us a bit of money, but mostly it was cookies and hot chocolate. What turned out to be my last Christmas that I saw him, we had taken the money we raised and added some more money that we collected from picking up pop bottles off the streets. We took that money and went out and bought Christmas gifts for the seniors in the home. It was small stuff, but after running errands for so many of them we knew what they liked so that made it so special for us to see the joy on their faces, when we gave them those gifts. While we sang for them, they had laid out cookies and hot chocolate for us.