Susanna Kauhanen, a resident of the village of Karhula in the southeast city of Kotka, decided on Wednesday to invite lonely parents and their children to join her family for the Christmas holiday. She extended her invitation on the Facebook page of the group Jouluapua, a forum for people to offer and request help during the Christmas season that has grown to 58,000 members.
“Somewhere out there is a little child who will be home alone with mom or dad on Christmas. She or he will see the lights burning in other windows and know that other children are enjoying presents and food. We have room at our Christmas table, in our living room and on our sauna benches, so I thought, why not?” says Kauhanen.
The invite was immediately noted and quickly gained close to 15,000 likes on the social media forum, generating over 200 shares and hundreds of comments. Kauhanen received much praise for her warm-hearted gesture and big heart. She was shocked by the attention her invitation received.
“I am still bowled over by the number of people who liked it. I was worried I would end up hosting 3,000 people. I broke down crying at the breakfast table over all of the compliments that said I am some kind of angel. I had no idea it would gather so much momentum,” she says.
Still no takers
Kauhanen’s fears about how many people would actually take her up on her offer were unfounded.
“I did talk with one mother of a toddler, but she said the distance to my home was too great. I do know of one mom, child and dog in Northern Finland who will be alone this Christmas. I wish someone nearby would offer them a seat at their holiday dinner,” says Kauhanen.
A similar charity group that got its start on Facebook is Hätäkahvit, a parent support group that now has thousands of members nationwide.
Kauhanen hopes that as many people living in Finland as possible would open their doors to lonely people this Christmas.
“I will consider this whole thing a great success if it encourages people to see the world around them a bit better. It would be nice if others could make room at their Christmas tables for people that would otherwise be alone, whether it be an elderly person, someone who feels marginalised or a single mom or dad. Anyone at all.”
At least one woman from Vantaa has mimicked Kauhanen’s invitation on the Jouluapua page. But how many Finns would be brave enough to go to a stranger’s home for dinner and sauna is another matter all together.
“Help is available, if you dare to take it. Here we are: a normal forty-something blended family with two kids and two dogs. We aren’t angels, highbrows or aristocrats, just normal people,” Kauhanen assures.