Capturing the Christmas spirit

Christmas tree and giftsI just went to a Christmas party for adults with intellectual disabilities and I have to say, if that’s the only holiday celebration I attend all season, I will be more than satisfied. Rarely have I seen such happiness and excitement, so many smiles and so much laughter.

I wish I could post pictures of all the happy people at that party, but each of the 50 adults at the event is enrolled in a day activity program at the local community services agency. Confidentiality laws protect their privacy.

So I will describe the best I can what I saw and heard.

Party central

When I entered the large room at the community center, all the party-goers were seated at round tables, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus.

I spoke to one of the women, a tiny lady with delicate fingers and short-cropped hair, and introduced myself. She had a perpetual smile on her face as she repeated “I love you, Shee-uh.”

A tall, slender man, also with a permanent smile, roamed the room and silently hugged me every time he passed by.

When Santa arrived, there was a burst of shouts and applause before he started handing out gifts.

An older man with glasses and a thinning hairline was sitting off to himself when I approached him. He had gotten a Beach Boys T-shirt and CD, just what he wanted. I asked him his name and he said he’d rather be known as a Beach Boy.

At every table I visited, I was met with friendly conversation and pure, unrestrained love.

Annual holiday bash

Lucky for me, I get to attend a party like this every December. My Rotary club puts on a Christmas celebration every year for this same group and it is always the highlight of holiday festivities for me.

The first such party I attended five years ago was an unforgettable experience. As the men and women sang Christmas carols and shouted at Santa, I was overwhelmed and couldn’t stop crying. I’m not used to weeping in public like that and did my best to stop the tears, but I wasn’t very successful.

The next year, I was more composed. Each year, I’ve been able to overcome my reluctance and shyness and have been able to interact more freely with our guests.

These men and women capture the true joy and bliss of Christmas. We should all be so lucky.