Bible Hill teen gives up gifts in lieu of blanket donations
Its better to give than to receive
TRURO - Santa Claus didn't arrive for Ian Henderson this year. But the Christmas spirit sure did.
"This year I've decided not to receive gifts but to give blankets to homeless people in Truro," the 13-year-old Bible Hill resident wrote in a letter he recently presented to members of a group currently establishing a homeless shelter in Truro.
The concept of giving up Christmas gifts for himself in exchange for blankets for others was born out of a sudden inspiration that occurred several weeks ago while Ian was watching television in his family's living room.
"He was sitting in this chair watching T.V. and he shouted, 'MOM, MOM, I KNOW WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS,'" his mother Sheila said.
Thinking he had spotted something in a television commercial, she went downstairs to see what it was.
"So I sat down and he said, 'I want blankets.' And I thought, 'Oh, he's cold and he wants me to go get him a blanket. This was just a way to get me there.' But I said, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'I want blankets for Christmas because I think everyone deserves to be warm.'
"So I left it at that, I didn't ask him any further and I thought it was a great idea and we would take it from there."
She ultimately learned that Ian wanted to forgo Christmas presents in lieu of donations for which to buy blankets to give to the homeless. Shortly after, while hosting a dinner for the local palliative care team, it was suggested he compose a letter to let people know what he was doing and why.
It was only then that Sheila and her husband Dave learned their son's decision was based on an earlier charitable act he had conducted last summer while visiting relatives in Newfoundland.
"One day we went out to lunch and before we went into the cafÉ, I saw this woman," Ian said. "She was sitting in a doorway and she was looking really bad, so I just started thinking about that and when we came back out, I just gave her some money. And she said, 'Thank you' and we went back on our way.'"
For Ian's parents, the act was obviously a shining moment for their son. But they thought that was the end of it until his recent decision to play Santa Claus to the homeless.
Sitting beside her son as he relayed the tale to a visitor, the beaming mom couldn't have been more proud.
"We both volunteer in various ways and we try to make sure that our children are as kind and as empathetic as possible," Sheila said of she and her husband. "We don't have family here so we know how important community is. So, our goal really is just to produce kind, productive members of society and I think obviously with Ian, we're doing a good job."
There were no gifts under the family Christmas tree this year for Ian, outside of some simple stocking stuffers.
But his charitable efforts to date have raised $533, of which he has so far spent $84 on blanket purchases.
A number or other blankets have been donated and if Ian sees some good buys, he may purchase more or simply turn in the cash to the homeless committee.
For committee member Mary Jane Jeffery, the teen's deeds are an example of the volunteer effort that will be required to make the shelter successful in providing warmth to those who might otherwise be cold. But they also offer promise, she believes, of the hope necessary to ensure the Christmas spirit does prevail over human prejudice of mankind's less fortunate.
"Kids like that are going to change our world," she declared, with an ear-to-ear smile. "He's 13 year's old and he is already so socially aware. And it's people like that that need to drive things in a different direction so that we don't have the problems that history has with people with mental health and people who are homeless and people with drug addictions, because there's such a bias against them. And, you know, this kid has none of that. And it's great to see. Somebody who is 13 years old and already has those beliefs and those feelings is really empowering."