I am a staunch believer that Christmas is not to be mentioned until after Thanksgiving. I do not buy gifts before Thanksgiving, I do not listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving and I do not put out any type of Christmas decoration before Thanksgiving. Here’s the problem: no matter how hard I try, it is impossible to avoid anything Christmas after the month of August. It seems that every year stores are stocking their shelves earlier and earlier with everything Christmas. What? You need a bathing suit? Oh those left the shelf in March! Frustrating I tell you.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy Christmas. I do. But what I enjoy more than just a gift-giving holiday is the spirit of the holiday season. I like the traditions and memories that we as a family create. I like knowing that my kids are learning the value of doing for others. I like being able to help someone less fortunate enjoy a nice holiday and hope that perhaps someday those people will remember when they had very little and perhaps ‘pay-it-forward’ as well. I like knowing that no matter how fortunate we may be, the real gift of wealth is in the love, togetherness and joy we share as a family united. I like spreading the spirit of giving all year long, not just on a designated day. I like knowing that my kids understand that true happiness comes when you are helping others.
One of my very best memories of all my childhood Christmases was the first year that our family, (dad, mom, Jill, Ann, Stacy and I) all gathered together to ‘adopt’ a family in need through the Sub-for-Santa program. I can still remember all of us ‘girls’ standing in our parents bedroom as each package was wrapped, a ribbon wound around the package and bows attached. Stacking the gifts and readying them for delivery. I remember the warmth of talking about the family and how happy they would be waking up on Christmas morning and seeing that Santa remembered to stop at their house. I also remember wondering why, if Santa was coming to our house, why did we need to help him? Why wasn’t Santa remembering this family? How was it that my parents knew about this family and Santa didn’t? Weird. Didn’t every good girl and boy get a visit from Santa? Maybe this family was on the naughty list! Would Santa think we betrayed him by doing his job? I remember being so proud, yet also a bit confused.
Warm memories of that very first Sub-for-Santa Christmas helped me to understand and reinforce the knowledge that when I became a parent I would allow my kids to enjoy that same spirit of giving along with the warmth that spreads throughout your body and causes the eyes to mist up a bit. (To this day I still get all misty-eyed and lumpy-throated every time) Give to others from the heart, no matter how much or little you may have.
And that my friends is the key… no matter how much or how little you may have, you can always share your time, talents, attention. and yes monitarily too. So this year I challenge everyone to branch out and offer a bit of yourself to others: donate food to help stock pantry shelves (and not just during the holidays); donate to the local sock, mitten and hat drives; visit with the elderly, whether relatives, neighbors or someone you have met at the grocery store; volunteer to serve meals at the shelter; leave kind little notes for strangers to find; put a coin in a parking meter that’s about to expire; buy a latte for the person behind you in line; drop a dollar in the red bucket; read to the sick, elderly or bedridden; record books on tape and donate them to your local hospital (you can even include the book if you like); knit slippers, hats, scarves … anything, and donate them; offer to tend your harried neighbors children for an afternoon; invite people over for games and cocoa; pick an angel off of the angel tree; the opportunities are endless!
Now for those of you that think, "Hey, I’ll call the homeless shelter and donate there." Let me tell you … this time of year the homeless shelter is inundated with charitible gifting. Most have waiting lists of organizations that want to provide for the families etc. Places you may want to consider instead include: Children in Foster Care – some of these kids are near to aging out and are in need of very basic items- , Mentally Retarded Adults living in group homes – many are older without family support and don’t know what it is like to have a Christmas gift – , ‘Other’ Group Homes – mental health – behavioral – handicapped – blind – deaf – there are literally zillions of group homes out there! – The Local VA Hospital– , Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children-, and of course … Sub for Santa. The opportunites are endless if you just look beyond your front porch.
Become a full-fledged member of the misty-eye-lumpy-throat-club … You will NEVER regret the feeling!