By Tim Kalinowski on December 23, 2017.
Christmas is a time to think with some sense of nostalgia or yearning about family and being home for the holidays, but for some of the disadvantaged members of our community it is also a time of painful memories, says Rev. Murray Kumm, executive director of the Hope Street Compassionate Ministry Centre.
“Christmas brings to mind for many what Christmas used to be,” he explains. “Everyone who is at Hope Street had a childhood. They maybe had grandpa and grandmas they went to for Christmas. They had people who loved them, and it is those things people yearn for, especially at Christmas time.
“For a lot of our people,” Kumm adds, “there is a sense of sadness which goes with Christmas as they remember somebody who isn’t there anymore, or who can’t be there. Or someone who you wish was there, like an ex-wife or your children. Christmas really brings a harsh focus on your situation; so having some place to go where you can feel welcome and respected, where you can get a good meal, is important.”
About 140 people came out to the Hope Street CMC Christmas dinner on Dec. 17, says Kumm, about double the normal Sunday soup kitchen numbers. He expects many of those might also head down to Kiwanis Christmas luncheon on Christmas Day to have some sense of companionship during this difficult time of year.
“Food is important, but there is also a need for fellowship,” explains Kumm. “For those who don’t have family, they feel like the friends they meet at Hope Street CMC are their family.”
Hope Street served on average about 85 people per Sunday in 2017, a slight improvement over 2016’s all-time high numbers. Sadly, says Kumm, there is still a pressing need in Medicine Hat for food help. He stresses the importance of thinking of those in need this Christmas season, and keeping them firmly in your heart.
“We know we have large population of impoverished or disadvantaged people in our city,” he states. “The city has done an excellent job with homelessness, but the fact is there is still a high poverty rate. There is a lot of working poor, single parent families, and elderly people living with just barely enough to get by.
“And for those who do have problems which add to their difficulties, we don’t see these people as homeless, dirty, living on the street, that no one wants to be around. We see them as valuable members of our society who are just down on their luck.”
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