For the last seven years I’ve spent my Decembers managing a charity Christmas tree lot. And while each November I start dreading the prospect, by the time I sell that first tree I remember just how much I love it.
Part of it is the feeling of Christmas spirit that goes along with helping folks find their perfect tree. Most of the time my customers, be they young families with a gaggle of apple-cheeked kids or empty nesters, are in a great mood when I meet them. I’ve always found their joy to be contagious, no matter how cold and wintry it is.
But my years in the tree sales game have also taught me, or reinforced to me, several key life lessons which, in the spirit of the season, I’ll share with you.
Make the best of what you’ve got — While most of the trees we get are fantastic, not every one is Norman Rockwell perfect. The key isn’t to hoodwink an unsuspecting customer to take the troublesome tree off your hands, but to make the tree into one they’re looking for. A crooked trunk can always be cut down to make a smaller, straighter tree and unless your tree will be in the centre of the room, you can always place the sparse side toward the wall.
No matter how prepared you are, there are still things beyond your control — One year we had a freezing rainstorm just after the trees were delivered and they froze into a massive pile. We spent hours prying these trees loose and trying our best to fluff them up. Making matters worse, we didn’t get any sort of thaw that year, meaning that the trees we were pulling out at the end of the season were frozen almost flat and didn’t make for a very nice presentation for those looking to make Christmas memories.
Better busy than bored — Some days you’re run ragged, trying to help several families at once, bouncing from those who haven’t made up their minds to those who have. On the flipside, there have been many nights where I end up just standing around waiting for the shift to be over. On those nights I’m really thankful for my MP3 player.
Long Johns are my friend
You get more than you pay for with free labour — I’m always nervous if we’ll find enough volunteers to cover all our shifts. But every year we get people lining up to help us. I have people who haven’t been involved in the organization for years who come back each December because they have as much fun with it as I do.
Hard work feels good — There is a whole lot of physical effort involved in selling trees and I often go home stiff and sore from my efforts. But at the end of the day I know I’ve done my part to help to raise money for several youth community groups and, for me, that is the best feeling of all.
— Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News.