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When a Small Gift Becomes a Big Deal

Eleven dollars and sixty cents. That was all. And most of that was in coins. This is all that remains in a young dad’s pocket as he contemplates the past year. A year that, to him, seemed full of let downs and failures.

His battles with homelessness, unemployment, past trauma, and heartache all paled in comparison to the fact that he was unable to care for his young daughter, and indeed, unable to buy her a single gift for Christmas.

The Christmas period brings with it some very strong emotions for everyone. For some, it is the excitement on a child’s face as they open their presents, or delicious food lovingly prepared and shared with family and friends. For others, however, it can be one of the most stressful and lonely times of the year.

As we move into a new year, we are inclined to look back and assess the highs and lows of the past 12 months. This can be an opportunity to reflect and realise just how far we’ve come, but it can also be a time of deep regret and sadness, knowing all too well the feeling of despair that comes with the perception that nothing ever seems to get better.

It is for these people that services like MacKillop’s are called upon to help, not only with the day-to-day work that we do, but also to go a step further with our compassion and generosity. Mackillop, in this regard, is much more than just the sum of its parts. We, as an organisation, as a community, rally together to fundraise gifts, toys, food hampers, and social outings. Undoubtedly, with all the chaos involved in the coordination and logistics required to make this happen, it is easy to forget just how much these things mean to our people.

I was recently reminded of this as I handed the brightly wrapped presents to the young man to give to his daughter. A remarkable change comes over him: his eyes brighten, his posture straightens, his head lifts. There is a pride and a presence in this small victory. When the little girl sees her dad, she runs at full speed towards him oblivious to the loot in the bag he’s holding. The only thing she sees is Daddy. After a long embrace, he smiles as he hands her the bag of gifts. “Look what I’ve got for you sweetie.”

In this moment, all of his feelings of inadequacy wash away as his daughter’s little face beams with excitement. She smiles with the pride of a daughter who knows that she’s special. Who knows she’s loved. As he turns his gaze to me, with his little girl held tightly in his arms, he gives a look of gratitude that was not meant for me, but for the entire community which surrounds him and others during this emotional time of year.

Ian is a Case Worker in MacKillop's Youth Homelessness Service in Blacktown Hills.