I'm starting with this post--an entry i've debated posting for several reasons....but ultimately decided that it might just be the best thing we did this Christmas and I want to talk about it. So, post I will!!
This year the girls were so excited about everything Christmas--trees, count-down chains, their play-nativities (thanks, again, grandma!!), listening to Christmas music 8 hours a day, talking TO and about Santa, and pretending to be Mary and baby Jesus, or Joseph, or camels--all while dressed in Cinderella and Little Bo Peep dresses.
And they (luckily) shared in my excitement for the families we tried to help this Christmas, especially this little sweet little family, where the majority of our efforts were focused: The father of this family made $675 in the month of October. The mom stays home with their 2 and 4 year olds. They live in a room (yes, ONE room) in the back of a tiny apartment that's behind a small house near downtown. Their wish list consisted of: shoes, clothes, coats, sheets and a pan to cook in. That was it. When I tried to get her to mention some sort of toys or dolls or trucks or anything else her kids might like, it was like pulling teeth. She got so uncomfortable--like she'd never asked for anything like that before....or received it. And finally, when she did mention other things, the first request was diapers. Diapers. For Christmas.
The days that we spent collecting donated items (from so many, many generous and helpful people!!), shopping for the family, wrapping presents and sorting piles were some of the best days of the whole year. Grace was so interested and invested in helping this family. I think it really made a difference that this year there was a 4-year-old little girl that we were helping. (and the fact that Grace is a whole year older) She felt, and truly was, more involved. She really has gained an understanding of the fact that having a home, a room that she only has to share with two siblings, food whenever she wants it and clothes to choose from means that she lives more comfortably than most kids in the world. And the more we talked about this family, the more she said things like "mom, we should just invite this family to live with us, since our home is always warm and we have lots of food" or "mom, after Christmas, who's going to buy these things for them?" She even asked me on Christmas morning, mid-gift opening, if Adanari and her family were opening their presents right then. That girl really thinks about things, and people and their situations. Her thoughtfulness is never-ending. She truly amazes me. If half the world had a fourth of Grace's love....i'm tellin' you...
But, as mentioned, we were not alone in giving to this family. And there's no way I could have done it alone. We had so many wonderful contributions and donations from friends, neighbors and people i barely even know. I found, once again, that people want to give and want to help this time of year, but sometimes just don't know how, or where or just don't have the time. But, since I did 99% of my kids' Christmas shopping at garage sales during the summer (i know, i'm ridiculous...) I have a little more time in December than others. AND, since i'm really good at taking most everything to its extreme, it seems that taking on overwhelming projects that consume my life for a few weeks fits perfectly with my plan of brain-washing the "true meaning of Christmas" into my kids' minds :)
So, after loading up all the goods, here's our van, full to the brim: The night we delivered the gifts to this family was such a sweet and memorable one. Grace and Abby were a little shy. The mom and dad didn't know how to thank us. You could especially tell that the dad was appreciative, yet unsure what to say. And the kids were just adorable and wanted to rip open all of their gifts immediately. We didn't stay long. Just long enough for Grace and Abby to really see what was going on, and the difference all their work was going to make.
I cannot describe the peace and calm I felt as we drove away from their house. Partly, i'm sure, because I was relieved that it was done. And partly because I was then able to focus on the next matter at hand--packing for our trip the next day. But mostly I felt all the worries I'd been having--worries that my own children's Christmas traditions and memories that i should have been focusing on were being smothered by this massive undertaking--just disappear. And I knew that Grace, who will have many, many wonderful Christmas memories of her days as a little girl, will fondly remember this one for the rest of her life. (that might just be because i'm gonna talk about it for the next 8 months, show her photos, quiz her, etc...)
It's hard for me to find the balance with things like this. I want my girls to understand that Christmas is about so much more than ripping open a few gifts under a tree. I want them to understand what it means to "care for the poor and needy" and I want them to get excited about helping others and associating this time of year with service....but I also really want them to have fond memories of getting that one doll that they'd been eyeing all year, and opening presents they never thought, in a million years that they'd get. And I can't say that I've found that balance yet. Again, extremes are my forte...not balances... :)
A couple weeks ago, as we were driving in the car and rocking out to some Christmas tunes, Grace told me that her favorite part of Christmas was giving to the families who needed help this Christmas.
I couldn't agree more, Gracie.
I just hope you didn't say that because all your garage-sale purchased gifts were lame. :)