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A year end message to all students, staff, faculty and alumni

Friends and Colleagues,
As the year draws to a close, Best Wishes of the Season to all members of the growing CityU Canada community. Have a Safe, Enjoyable and Rejuvenating Holiday Season. This is a time for family, friends, celebration and gratitude…….and stories. I have attached A Christmas Story. When the time permits, take a quiet moment with a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy this Tale of the Season.
All the Best of the Season,
– Arden

A Christmas Story

Like many of you I am not a Christian. If hard pressed, I have to say that I am a Buddhist, though I have been studying Chinese Qigong over the past 18 years. Nevertheless, the story I am about to share with you could be given no other name since it took place on Christmas Day.

It was 1968, long before a number of you were born. I was living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England and working as an orderly in a psychiatric hospital called St. Nicholas Hospital. Founded in the late 19th C it exists to this day.

I lived in a one room flat in a ‘boarding house’, a large, old brick building that had been cut up into several residences. It was Christmas Eve. A gentle snow had begun to fall and it was cold. I was scheduled to work the next day having taken a shift for a married colleague so he could spend time with his family.

I do come from a Caucasian family in which Christmas was celebrated, so I was experiencing that kind of deep and agonizing loneliness we experience on festive occasions when we aware that loved ones afar are assembled together around the fire and we are not there.

I went to bed early because my shift started at 7 am. My flat had a small coin fed heater that shut down after two hours. About ½ hour from the heater shutting down the flat would get very cold which necessitated getting up and feeding a ‘shilling’ into the heater. This repeated getting up, as well as the deep silence that accompanies heavy snow foretold what the morning would bring.

I got up at 5:30 am to allow plenty of time to catch a bus to the hospital. I soon found, as I stepped out into the morning of that Christmas Day, that a metre of snow had accumulated and snow was still driving down. I trudged out to the Great Northern Way to catch a bus north to the hospital. I waited and waited, not a bus in site, not a car either. I reluctantly concluded that I was facing a 10-12 kilometre walk and wondered if there was any chance I would make it to the hospital on time.

Fifteen minutes later walking north into the driving snow, I heard a car coming. As I turned around I could see that it was chock full of people, otherwise I might have stuck out my thumb in hopes of catching a ride. The car pulled up beside me and the back door opened. Turning over his shoulder and speaking in a thick Scottish brogue, the driver announced, “Get in, laddie.” “But,” I said, ever the polite Canadian,” Aren’t you full already?”. “Oh no”, the driver replied, “Not all!” He shouted some instructions to the four people sitting across the back seat who promptly clamoured on top of one another leaving a space for me. I climbed into the warm car.

“Now, what you are doing up so early and out alone on a morning like this?” I told my story and they told theirs. It turns out they were headed to Edinburgh to visit relatives on Christmas Day travelling up this historic road, initially built by the Romans, connecting the major cities of England and leading up to Edinburgh in Scotland.

The way into St. Nicholas involved a 2 or 3 kilometre diversion from the main road. I offered to get off at the intersection. Not a chance, they were delivering me safe and sound all the way to my destination. I remember vividly the crispness of their tires on the newly fallen, unploughed snow of the hospital’s circular driveway and their well wishes for Christmas as we parted.

The ward was warm and inviting as I walked in, full of music and bright with the decorations that had been put up the week before. It was a ward for patients with dementia, many of whom had been cast aside by their families. Everyone knew it was a special day and their eyes were full of joy and delight.

Whether it is Christmas, Hanukah or Winter Solstice or one of many festivals held by many different peoples at this time of year, there is a spirit of generousity expressed and celebrated.

Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for Peace, Safety, Harmony, Good Health and Prosperity in the New Year and Always.