On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
gratitude, love and glee.

Brett Nugent has been volunteering serving meals at the DI for several years. This year, he decided to volunteer with the Christmas WishList interviews. It’s an experience that has changed his life. On the 3rd Day of the DI Christmas, Brent shares his insights. Thanks Brett for giving so generously of your time and energy. You make a difference!

This year has been a great learning experience for me. I have heard some amazing life stories. I’ve spoken to some people that were living paycheck to paycheck like so many of us do, and one health setback like a stroke, poor circulation due to diabetes or physical injury have left people in a bad situation with no benefits through their employer. Medicine and prescriptions can be very expensive and some people have had to choose between medicine, rent, or food with the money they have.

Waiting for benefits through AISH or other programs can be a long process from application to actually receiving an income, and without savings to carry you through, the walls can crumble. Most people can turn to family in a crisis, but what happens when you are on your own? I have met people that actually remind me of friends of mine from the past or people I have worked with that have a good middle class lifestyle.

Many of the requests on the Christmas Wish List are for necessities like glasses or dentures. It must be hard to look for a job when you need glasses and are unable to read application forms. Another popular request was for steel toed work boots to gain access to certain jobs that are unavailable otherwise. Others requested gifts for friends, or partners or for their children and nothing for themselves. Just so that person would get a gift Christmas day.

One lady that had a stroke, and is receiving social assistance, and working part time received a cheque for only $44 dollars from welfare to last her until the 6th of January when she gets her next paycheck. Her rent for her subsidized apartment is deducted from her welfare cheque so at least that was covered, but what about food and other necessities. Her paychecks for the month of November totalled only $300. How can someone get by on that and provide Christmas presents for her children. The stress of not being able to provide gifts for one’s children was obviously a heavy burden for her to bear.

Most of the people I met are the working poor. I didn’t interview many people that either didn’t work or at least pick bottles to maintain a source of income. One man in particular had just finished shoveling snow for 15 hours, for a job he was picked up for at cash corner. He was worried he had frostbite on his fingers, but his hands were just a bit numb from being outside so long. To shovel snow for 15 hours at the age of 59 is hard work, and I can honestly say that I have never had to work like that at any position I have ever held and I always received a decent salary and benefits as well.

I also met an older man that had just lost his apartment, when the owner of the unit decided to renovate the apartment. He was afraid to be at the Drop In Centre, and I will admit that I was a little intimidated my first time there as well. This man had recently had a heart attack and was visibly stressed over the situation he was presently in. I did see him a week after the interview working in the kitchen to help prepare the dinner that night, so he was making the best of the situation and seemed to have adjusted to the circumstances he was in.

I also spoke with another man who was requesting a gift for someone else and not for himself. He was working two jobs and was carrying all his work equipment with him when I spoke to him. What I really didn’t realize was that he said he needed to save between $5000 and $6000 to move out of the DI. I thought that sounded like a lot, but when he explained to me that sometimes you don’t have steady jobs one right after the other. Sometimes there are dry spells and you have to be able to carry yourself through for a couple of months. This man had saved over $2000 already, and was looking forward to getting an apartment and his furnishings etc out of storage. He was helping out someone from his home town who, like him, had no family left. His friend had medical problems that didn’t allow him to work, so this man took it upon himself to support this older person as well.

On e-bay they say the average person has approximately $1200.00 worth of stuff they don’t use and won’t miss that they could sell. If that is the case for whomever is reading this, please take the time to sort through the things you have never used that could make a great Christmas gift for someone who is not fortunate enough to have excess belongings they have never used.