From whom do we really learn our lessons?

This is a season of lessons. The lesson of the gift of the magi. The lesson of eternal love. The lesson of 57 words that lead to peace. The lesson of simplicity. The lesson of purity.

A most poignant lesson awaits us this season and it’s centred in the Izumi Restaurant at 29 Anne St S. Since 1996 when it opened, the restaurant has been owned and operated by Dong Ki Lee and Kyung Hee Lee who moved to Canada from Korea in 1989. Shortly after arriving, the couple welcomed their only child, Francesca, into the world and later included Kyung Hee’s mother to the unit. Their home was a simple apartment in the Anne St and Dunlop area.

Labouring for others gave them the chance to save and seven years after moving to Canada they opened a restaurant featuring Japanese food at the Anne St location.

Immediately, the Lee’s began to give back, beginning with an annual picnic at the waterfront for clients and staff of the Barrie and District Association for People With Special Needs. They added to the picnic and feature an evening in their restaurant for staff and clients.

And then they began to serve hot lunches to each of the BDAPSN residential houses, rotating to cover each house every month. Daughter Francesca helps serve and friends from Toronto come up to help. Their friends play an important part in the summer picnic, too.

Once the lunch program became routine, the Lee’s added Sunday brunches delivered to people who need them.

This generosity is coming from the hearts of these newest of Canadians. And it’s not just a Christmas mobilization; this family carries out this generosity month in, month out, all year long and has been doing so, using their own resources, since 1996.

The spirit of giving is exemplified so thoroughly right now by those involved in Christmas Cheer, and those serving meals at Out of the Cold, and those manning Salvation Army kettles and Food Bank shelves. And by Dong Ki and Kyung Hee and Francesca Lee and the people who work at Izumi.

I called to enquire about the Lee’s generosity and was given a lesson in humility. And in simplicity.

“Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world,” said Mr. Lee through his sou-chef. “I came here, leaving my restaurant in Korea, and my wife leaving her hospital job, to join her sister and her sister’s family.”

And why have you selected people with special needs to benefit from your fine dining? “I helped handicapped people in Korea, giving dinners and lunches. I’ve done this for a long time.

“But, I’m not helping these people.

“I’m learning from them.”

Thanks Dong Ki and Kyung Hee. And congratulations on being officially accepted into Canada by being granted citizenship this year. May we follow your steady example and earn our way in this country, as well.

Whether you’re celebrating this silent, twinkling season with family of the flesh, or family of the heart, I wish for you life’s good things, so well exampled by our friends on Anne St.