Teach Your Children Well
I have been reflecting this week on the Christmas holidays and pondering the moments our family experienced together this year. Without question all of our children agreed that what we did Christmas night was the most meaningful indeed…as they said “It was the best part of Christmas”. My husband and I happen to have done some redecorating a few weeks before Christmas (I don’t recommend that timing by the way). What started out as replacing carpet in one room, mushroomed into much, much more, and before i knew it I was cleaning out cupboards and closets in nearly every room in the house. One result was a large stack of blankets and pillows that we no longer needed. My first thought was to take them to the Salvation Army to donate them. But in talking to one of my grandchildren, we decided we should give them away to homeless people in our area.
I loved the idea and saw it as a possible teaching moment for all our grandchildren. So two of them set about to come up with a plan. The outcome was that late on Christmas afternoon after all our gifts had been opened, and much food consumed, and naps had been taken, and carols sung, and toys played with, we began the process of wrapping up “gifts” to take to people living on the street. When we were making our plan days earlier, we decided we needed to add more than just the blankets and pillows that had emerged from the closets. A dear chum, Kathy after learning of our plan, came by my house a few days before Christmas and gave me several pairs of socks and toiletry kits that had been handed out on some long distance plane travel. She also had some warm flannel nightgowns and umbrellas she donated to the cause. Our grandkids helped make cookies and fudge that we wrapped in cellophane bags and tied with ribbons.
Then on Christmas, in the late afternoon, we set about creating the bundles we would hand out. Every bundle had multiple blankets and pillows. In addition we had bought more socks, gloves, more toothbrushes and toothpaste, Bibles, some chewing gum, hand warmers, and added some Subway gift certificates, along with the candy and cookies the children had made. Everyone worked together to assemble the bundles. Then one of the girls asked me for some cards so they could write a note to go with each “gift”. So they all set about drawing pictures and writing little notes for each recipient.
When the bundles were ready we hopped in two cars and set out caravanning together to hand out our gifts. First stop, two men on a chilly, very busy street. Both in thin sleeveless t-shirts, one giving the other a haircut as he sat on a bucket. My husband, Randy, got out and asked if they could use some blankets. They were thrilled to have them. The children sang to them from the car, “Joy To The World”. As Randy came back to the car, one of our 7 year old granddaughters, asked if she could get out. She had found her fidget spinner in the car where she had forgotten it a couple of days earlier, and wanted to give it to one of the men. She sweetly offered her little treasure to the men as a gift of love and wished them a “Merry Christmas”.
Again and again, we had the opportunity to offer a gift of warmth and song and brief conversation with people who had no warm home and loving family with whom to share this special day. One gentleman, George, was very thankful for his blanket but even more thankful to have some folks who were interested to talk to him. For just a few minutes he wasn’t a homeless person living on the streets, he was a just guy sharing a Christmas conversation with a regular caring family. The blanket would keep his body warm, but the conversation no doubt warmed his lonely heart. It was perhaps the best gift we could have given him that cold evening.
We met many people, some who expressed their profound gratitude, and some, who weren’t capable of expressing anything, much less gratitude. When one of the little ones wanted to get out of the car and try to talk to a very inebriated man who wasn’t making sense, Jeremy (our 14 year old grandson), explained to her that it wasn’t a good idea. “Why?”, she asked, “Why can’t I get out and talk to him?” “He’s had too much eggnog”, Jeremy told her. This was eye opening and heart expanding on so many levels.
One couple was so thrilled when Randy offered them some blankets, the woman, Olivia, started to cry. “Just five minutes ago we prayed and asked God to help us find a way to get warm and now here you are. You are the answer to our prayers,” she explained through her tears. You can’t imagine the impact that simple statement had on all of us, but most especially our precious grandchildren who experienced what it was like to be used by God and to literally be the answer to someone’s prayer.
It wasn’t so much that we had taught the children something valuable, but it was I who had learned a lot from my grandchildren. In my busyness I was going to donate my blankets and pillows at a drop off center and keep going with my errands this Christmas season, but my granddaughter suggested we make the blanket donations personal and give them out person to person on Christmas.
As we drove back home, to our roaring fire, decorated tree, table full of food, and gifts and toys stacked up around the room, one small voice from the back of the car uttered “This was the best Christmas ever.” “I think so too”, said another. “We should do this every year.” And we all drove the next few blocks in silence, grateful for the blessing of sharing. Not sharing with the nameless, faceless “homeless”, but of sharing what we had with George, and Antonio, and Olivia and Brenda and so may others, each a person with a name and a story. Each, someone who God loves. For a brief time that evening we were all just God’s children celebrating together the birth of His son. And for all of us, that was the best gift of all.