By Rose Szalai
In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on giving and receiving of impalpable gifts. The actions of giving and receiving of impalpable gifts are seen through various acts of affection, gratitude, and selflessness. In particular the gift of a selfless act speaks volumes to those in the community and those in need.
It brightens our spirit to receive gifts of gratitude, peace, joy, camaraderie, love, and hope. Recent events of crime, pain, death, and hatred in the world hinder and cloud the true holiday spirit of giving and receiving. Volunteering to help those less fortunate is one way to break the cycle and improve the spirit of the self and others around us. It gives us hope.
We share the holidays with family and friends and continue to carry out the traditions passed down over the years. Gifts, dinners, caroling, festive lights, and community gatherings are all encountered throughout the season to celebrate this wonderful time of the year. While I ponder the joy of these festivities, it saddens me to realize that I will not be with my family and friends to share this time. I am left feeling empty, but also know that this is a common occurrence amongst many people who are homeless and helpless.
How can we all help each other and bring joy to each other through the holidays? More importantly, how can I contribute to better the lives of those people around me that need it more than I? This leaves me hopeful in bringing a smile, a laugh, a shared memory, and a hot meal to those in need.
In lieu of a family thanksgiving dinner around the table with all the trimmings, I volunteered at a local food kitchen with an organization in the San Diego area. Just Call Us Volunteers (JCUV) collaborates with other non-profit organizations to positively impact the lives of San Diego’s low-income and homeless adults and children. The events include serving free healthy meals and teaching hands-on cooking classes using fresh, often organic, and nutritious ingredients. Chef Julie Darling is the president and founder of JCUV. She started the program in 2005 and has served over 26,000 meals since its inauguration.
This Thanksgiving I attended the “day before Thanksgiving prep” where we congregated at the chef’s kitchen and began dicing, cutting, baking, and mixing everything that is appropriate for a Thanksgiving Day meal. From green beans and turkey to ham and yams, it was a delicious and well planned meal that also had a lot of heart put into it. On Thanksgiving Day we took the hot prepared food to three locations, which included the San Diego Center for Children, Veterans Village of San Diego, and a local homeless shelter. I have never felt more grateful, satisfied, and privileged to work with such wonderful people. It was a blessing to share this day with all of them. My heart is full.
To learn more about Just Call Us Volunteers, click here.
About Rose Szalai
As a pediatric emergency room nurse, one moment Rose may be consoling a family who lost a child in a traumatic accident and the next moment blowing bubbles with a toddler to distract them from pain. The nursing career itself is taxing on the mind and the body, but the love of the population excites her and her passion motivates her to pursue other avenues to help those in need. Beyond the walls of the emergency room, Rose often gives back by volunteering in the local community as well as across the sea on remote islands providing medical care. To stay mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically strong, Rose turns to an all-encompassing fitness routine that includes running, yoga, cross training, biking, and hiking. Join her health and fitness FaceBook community here.