The Christmas trees are decorated. The outside lights and decorations brighten the night sky. Shoppers are running around looking for the perfect gifts to give their friends and loved ones. The cookies and fudge are being made. And, malls everywhere are filled with Santa’s helpers, who are listening to babies cry and children sharing their wish lists. It really is beginning to to look a lot like Christmas!
Have you ever stopped and wondered about those less fortunate? How do those parents explain to their children that Santa won’t be visiting this year?
For the past seven years, my husband and I have volunteered at the Lords Pantry at Anna’s House, located just west of the zoo in downtown Indianapolis, and three years ago I was asked to join the board. It provides many services for the residents in their community including a warm dinner every Wednesday night, a food pantry on Saturdays, a back to school backpack program where children are able to bring their school supply list and get a new backpack filled with everything they will need for the school year and an adopt a family program during the holidays so that the children will be able to receive a few gifts for Christmas, just to name a few.
This past Saturday was my favorite day of the year. It was “Saturday with Santa”.
The children of Anna’s House look forward to this day every year. The volunteers and generous donors work throughout the year gathering toys, hats, gloves and scarves, books and stuffed animals for the “Santa’s Workshop” that is created for this special day. As the families arrive, they check in and are given a number. Times are assigned so the entire community doesn’t show up at once. When their number is called, it is time to go see Santa, where they can have a couple of photos taken (one with just the children and Santa and one with the family and Santa.) The children are able to share their Christmas wishes with Santa, who listens intently and offers a “ho, ho, ho” before giving them a candy cane and bent pen donated by my company and sending them to the next stop and everyone’s favorite, the workshop. Parents are asked to have a seat while their children are escorted into Toyland by one of Santa elves. The Toyland is arranged by age group so the child is asked his/her age and is taken to the appropriate area. The children are allowed to choose a couple of toys, receive a hat and gloves and a scarf if they are available, a couple of books, and a stuffed animal if they want it. They leave with their arms full, their hearts happy and big smiles on their faces.
“For it is in giving, that we receive.” Francis of Assisi
I honestly don’t know who is more blessed every year, the children or the volunteers. My heart is so happy as I sit near Santa and offer a bent pen to each child. Because this is the fifth or sixth year to give these pens away, the children are excited to see how many choices they have. It is an exhausting day (even more so for the those who set up and tear down) but every moment is worth it when you see how the children react to Santa. This year, one of my favorite little girls was afraid of Santa, but the Director of Anna’s House explained to her that “Santa is my friend and there is nothing to be afraid of.” As she entered the room, she hesitated. The Director said, “What did I tell you about Santa?” and the little girl replied, “He is your friend and there is no reason to be afraid of him.” My heart melted. She went up to Santa very cautiously and suddenly got a burst of courage. She said to him, “Should I sing the Santa song?” and began the cutest rendition of “you’d better watch out….” before crawling on his lap, smiling for her pictures and telling him what she wanted for Christmas.
It has been a tough month in my family and Christmas will be difficult this year so leaving the hospital for just a few hours and helping give the less fortunate in Indianapolis the chance for a Merry Christmas made my heart happy.
My challenge to you this week is the following:
Step away from your traditional Christmas celebration and encourage your family to give back this holiday season. There are so many ways to bring a smile to others during the holidays. You can adopt a family, sing carols at a nursing home, bake cookies and deliver them to your neighbors, or offer to shovel snow for your elderly friends and neighbors (provided we have some.) It might be fun to spend the afternoon with your children creating Christmas cards and delivering them to a local hospital for distribution to their patients.
Christmas doesn’t have to cost a lot. It can be something as simple as a plate of homemade cookies and a card created with paper, glue sticks and markers. I think it is important to teach our children to give back to those less fortunate and to spend a few minutes every day being thankful for all of their blessings. We don’t need a 12 foot Christmas trees piled high with presents. Many times we spend money we don’t have on things the receiver of the gift doesn’t even want.
If we remember back to the first Christmas, things were simple. A baby was born and placed into a manager because there was no room for them at the inn. The wise men brought three gifts, not thirty, to honor this Blessed baby boy. If we take time to remember the “Reason for the Season” and open our hearts and our homes to our family and friends, we will most certainly have a Merry Christmas.
“The best things to do with the best things in life is to give them away.” — Dorothy Day
Have a fabulous week!