Christmas spirit in a rose

By  Hillary Windsor, Youth Speak News
  • January 6, 2009
While in Halifax for the holidays, I was given an unexpected lesson in gift-giving from a stranger.

I was having dinner at a downtown restaurant with my family when I encountered what I consider my dose of Christmas spirit for the season.

A middle-aged man walked through the doors, carrying a walking cane in one hand and a basket of long-stemmed, red roses in the other. He had on a Santa Claus hat and wore a bright red coat with gold buttons. As he limped through the crowd of people near the door, he made his way to our table, leaned over and gave my mother and I each a rose. Hearts now melted, and very grateful for his gifts to us, we began a conversation with him.

Michael Phillip Armstrong — as we learned was his name — told us he had been doing this self-employed job for 14 years, ever since he had fallen into a 30-metre quarry, broke every bone in his body and spent three months in a coma.

With a smile on his face, he told us the doctors had said he would never be able to walk again — but, lo and behold, there he was, standing proudly in front of us.

This man opened up my eyes that night. He shared with me the gift of Christmas spirit and gave me more knowledge, faith, gratitude and love than anything wrapped in a bow ever could. Through his humble gift, I was given so much more than just a rose. I was given the best gift of Christmas I could ask for — the gift of love.

Christmas and spirit are two words so commonly fused together with no clear logic or reasoning behind them, except the implied, sentimental notion of gift-giving.

But Christmas spirit should encompass love, joy, happiness, warmth and compassion. All too often we fail to act as simply and generously as Michael.

Christmas spirit has so often been confused with — and almost replaced by — the buying and giving of goods. So many of us get caught up with consumerist habits of excessive patronage that we fail to include some real meaning and love in the gifts we give.

The reason for this holiday is, of course, to remember, reflect upon and celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

My encounter with Michael really helped me to count my blessings and be grateful for the things I have.

To have met someone who has dealt with so many unfortunate experiences, yet who has prevailed with a glowing spirit was a life-altering experience that shifted my perspective dramatically.

This coincidental meeting turned out to be my own epiphany of what Christmas is really all about, and I will be ever grateful for that rose I received that night, and what bloomed beneath its surface.

So, for the New Year ahead, rather than making impractical resolutions, simply try to interact with a sense of spirit, as brothers and sisters, meeting each other, helping each other and acting with love.

You have nothing to lose; only a lifetime to gain.

(Windsor, 19, is a journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

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