Up Front and Personal

Be Santa to a Senior

by Rita Piro

Christmas is for kids. How often have we heard this said? Or perhaps said it ourselves.

It is hard not to associate Christmas with the youngest among us. All decked out in their red and green finery, they wait patiently and not so patiently on Santaland lines at the mall, waiting to share their hopes and dreams for Christmas morning with the big guy himself. Or maybe posed by the tree in their Christmas pajamas, like sleepy little angels they lovingly adorn the Christmas card greetings we receive from family and friends.

Besides, St. Nicholas, the real Sinter Klauss as the Dutch called him, is the patron saint of children, so why shouldn’t we say that Christmas is for kids?

Well, actually, we should. But we need to also remember that the Christ Child came for everyone of all ages. Too often we forget that our elderly friends and family are also looking to celebrate the joys of Christmas.

This was brought home to me the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I stopped by Mary, Queen of Heaven Church on East 65th Street in Brooklyn. The Bergen Beach church had just erected its Christmas Giving Tree, an annual tradition for many parishes. An abundance of construction paper ornaments bearing a description of a hopeful recipient of a stranger’s generosity hung from the branches. Girl, age six. Baby boy, 12 months. Male, age 16. Twin girls, age nine.

As memories of Christmas mornings filled with Barbies and board games, bikes and baby dolls danced round in my head, I must admit my first desire was to select a few of the ornaments designated for young girls. As I perused the tree further, however, I noticed there was a whole bunch of other potential giftees available. Senior female age, 72. Male veteran, age 84. Adult female, age 51.

As a life-long Catholic in our dioccese, I have been a part of numerous Christmas collections but rarely do I recall events including older people and senior citizens. Without further hesitation I plucked three ornaments bearing the description of senior citizens. For the rest of the day I tried to figure out what would be the best Christmas present for a senior citizen. Then I realized that it probably didn’t really matter.

Whether they are strangers whose name we pick off a parish giving tree or a friend or relative we’ve known for years, our seniors are very often forgotten, not just at Christmas, but the whole year through. Once the lifeblood of our families, the cornerstone of our homes, seniors are often relegated to the background when they are perceived as having outlived or outgrown their once prominent position in our society and in our lives. We rationalize that after so many Christmases, there couldn’t possibly be anything they could or would want. And maybe there isn’t.

This Christmas season remember the elderly around you with both your presents and your presence. Be Santa to a senior this Christmas and you’ll really be Jesus.