A Christmas Like No Other

Story and Photos from Jordan Walsh serving at the John Graham Emergency Shelter

There are several key factors in life that determine if you have reached adulthood. I have been able to avoid most of these indicators (i.e. owning a vacuum and being referred to as "Miss") until this last Christmas. It was this particular season that I felt my youth coming to an end, for I had been scheduled to serve on Christmas Eve. All I had ever achieved on this day was sleeping in, eating endless amounts of baked goods, and wearing flannel pajamas for an entire 24 hours. This year was going to be completely different. I was not only schedule to serve, but was hours away from my warm home and family. Despite these circumstances, I put on a smile and my big girl pants; I was ready to have a Christmas like no other. Jordan

On December 24th I walked into the John Graham Shelter, only to be greeted by several screaming children who could hardly wait for Santa's arrival. Within minutes a turkey was thrown into my lap. I had been given the task of preparing the holiday meal for approximately 20 residents. The panic began to settle in; I had never prepared a holiday meal in my short 23 years. Just as I was about to Google "how to prepare a very large turkey dinner" I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder. There was not only one, but four residents who had come to my aid. Together we tackled the turkey, sang along to Christmas tunes, and shared stories and laughs. Although I was miles from my family, I remember the shlter feeling as warm and cheerful as my own home. Perhaps being an adult was not all that bad.

I left the John Graham Shelter that day with a very valuable lesson. Christmas is not always the picture of perfection with pure bliss, family, and elaborate gifts. It might very well be a group of strangers that reside under a single roof due to circumstance. I always thought Christmas was about family, but I had been wrong. Christmas is about human connections; it is about offering a helping hand to the individual struggling with the holiday meal, or cooking alongside the woman who is merely an acquaintance. Christmas is about sitting around a table with unfamiliar faces and managing to find common ground. Most importantly, Christmas is about creating the comforts of home in the absence of a house; for everyone deserves a sense of being home on the Holiday.

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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