The true Christmas spirit caught me...
For the last month or so, I've spent a lot of time searching for the perfect gift for everyone in my family. I get a lot of joy out of the process--thinking about what each person might like, getting a real rush when I find a gift that I just know he or she is going to love.
Yesterday, though, I spent most of the day buying gifts for people I didn't even know. And, let me tell you, there is a bigger "rush" that happens when I do that.
A little background information first...
Our church hosts a Community Children's Christmas Party every year as a way to reach out to those people in our community who might otherwise not get much for the holidays. We are given the names of children through our local schools who would benefit from our party; these are low-income kids, or are members of families with lots of children, or just kids who are in difficult situations one way or another.
At our party, we have a meal (grilled cheese and chili), we sing songs, we tell the Christmas story, and then Santa shows up to talk to each of the kids and have their pictures taken with the "Big Guy." And then all of the kids get a bag full of gifts. The parents also get to go through our church's food pantry and clothes closet.
This week, the girls and I had the joy of buying gifts for three of these kids.
I called the Mom earlier in the week and she told me about her situation. Her husband had left her within the last couple of months and she'd had to move home with her Mom because she was out of work. She told me that her three girls--aged 9, 7, and 5--are always asking for different toys for Christmas and that she just didn't know how she was going to get them any of the things they wanted. So, I asked her what sort of gifts they'd like, and she gave me the rundown. Baby dolls. The new Jonas Brothers CD. Dora toys. Anything to do with Hannah Montana.
I told her how the party worked and that they could open their presents there at the party or they could keep them for Christmas. She said that the gifts would go home and be put under the tree and those would be their gifts from Santa Claus. We had a great time talking to each other and I couldn't wait to get started on the shopping for those sweet girls.
Yesterday, we went shopping for them and boy did we have fun doing it. I tried to explain to Sydney that we were just helping out Santa a little bit and, even though she was a little confused by that, she still got a kick out of getting the girls a Hannah Montana dance mat and a Bratz doll and a Baby Alive doll and all sorts of girly gifts.
Today was the party at our church and it was all kinds of wonderful.
Some of the moments that most touched me included...
Seeing the excitement on those kids faces when Santa walked into the room for the first time.
Seeing the kids listen to our parish pastor tell the Christmas story. He has such a way of communicating and they all seemed to really "get" it.
Talking to Santa, who is actually our good friend Ryan. He says it's amazing being Santa Claus; being on the other side and hearing what those kids have to say to him.
Seeing the youth in our church help carry groceries from our food pantry out to the families' cars.
Hearing Delaney tell me how three girls from her school were there and how she never realized what a hard time they had.
Seeing an older boy come up to Santa after the party and give him a picture. "My baby sister wanted you to have this," he said.
And seeing the three girls that we bought gifts for. They were the cutest girls and they all looked so excited. Their Mom and uncle were there too and they had the biggest smiles on their faces. What a joy to be able to spread some joy to them!
So, let me be a little bit adamant in what I'm saying to you (I'm getting on my soapbox...LOL)...
There is absolutely NO BETTER WAY to get into the Christmas spirit than to reach out to someone else.
We can't really celebrate Jesus' birth in any true fashion unless we are doing what He taught us to do when He was an adult. We aren't really celebrating Christmas unless we are reaching out to those who are less fortunate than us. That was, and always will be, Jesus' most important message.
And it's not too late for you to do this too. There are two weeks still until Christmas, and there are countless kids and families in your community who need a helping hand. There is a Salvation Army in every community; I guarantee that there is a soup kitchen near you; there is a family having a tough time around you.
Do what you can. Do it even if it's a sacrifice. Do it because it's really the closest you're going to get to knowing the true spirit of Christmas.