Tahlia and a heart full of Christmas hope
After a relationship breakdown, Tahlia* was supported by a Salvation Army case manager and a range of services. As soon as she got back on her feet, Tahlia, together with her daughter Abbie*, started reaching out to help others find hope, especially at Christmas time. This grew (with enthusiastic support from Abbie’s small school) into a bus-load of gifts collected each year to help those in need.
A number of years ago, Abbie and I had to leave a frightening situation and I found myself as a single mum. It was an extremely stressful time, navigating solo parenting and living on a very reduced budget. The kindness and support we were given by The Salvation Army was life-changing.
I was supported by a case manager from The Salvation Army and they linked me to a range of other services, including The Salvation Army’s Moneycare (free financial counselling service).
One of the biggest things when you’re traumatised is that it is so hard to pick yourself up. I’m generally very organised and capable, but when you’re going through trauma, your brain’s trying to recover and you’re not at your normal capacity.
Having The Salvation Army case worker ‘standing beside’ me (and us) in that time, pointing me in the right direction, supporting me to get back on my feet, was invaluable. It allowed me to heal, to find my footing and also support my daughter through the situation.
Salvos support with Christmas hope
I knew our first Christmas would be very tough. I had decided to try to look for the positives and be thankful for what we did have, even the small things.
But one of the lovely things that happened was our Salvos case manager recommended us for a Myer ‘Kids Day Out’ and Abbie got to be a ‘little VIP’ for the event.
We went early in the morning and there were all these craft and activities she could do, and she got a photo with Santa. They really looked after her and they gave us presents to take home. I could barely carry the presents on the tram and then they had more delivered to the house.
Having someone do that just blew me away and gave us so much hope. It helped us both to know that there were still good people in the world and we would be okay.
After that first year, even when we were still on a tight budget, we always made an effort to go and put a present under the tree at [Salvos] Doorways for someone else, or to buy a gift online for a Salvos hamper for someone in need.
With a heart for social justice, I applied for a job with The Salvation Army. Abbie and I also ended up connecting with a Salvation Army corps (church). We are in a great [Salvos] church community – they’re wonderful and accepting, and just very ‘real’.
For us, Christmas is very, very important because it’s all about Jesus. He died on the cross for our sins, and no matter what we’ve done, he’s paid the price for that.
It’s a beautiful reminder that no matter how far away we get from God, or what we’ve done, we can always come back to the cross and lay it down and say ‘I’m sorry’. There’s always a place for us with God. Christmas shows that there’s nothing we can do that’s going to separate us from God’s love.
I love that!
I was privileged to eventually work closely with a Doorways team and thought it would be great if we could get even more presents for the Salvos’ team to give out. I approached Abbie’s school and they were really excited.
The whole school got on board to provide presents for the toy program two years ago, and again last Christmas (and we are planning to do the same this year). They gathered a bus-load of toys each time. It was so successful they also started a food drive.
The Doorways staff are always blown away by all the donations and the support. Abbie gets really excited about it too.
Even when we’ve already put a gift under the tree [at the Salvos] she still wants to take one to school and give it there too. She loves making someone else hopeful and happy. It’s instilled some great values in her.
I know from my life that … it only takes a relationship breakdown, a job loss, or an illness to throw life upside down. That can happen to anyone, no matter how well you plan.
We have learned so much over the past few years. We have learned to be thankful for what we have and to remember there are many people who are doing it really tough. We have learned that if we have the capacity to help others get to a stronger position, then we should try, because we know how much hope that help can create.
What a privilege it is to be part of an organisation that shows the love and grace of God and provides hope to people in some of their most vulnerable moments.
*This is a true story with names changed to protect family privacy.
If you are facing a crisis, The Salvation Army can help make celebrating Christmas possible and offer you hope for the new year.