I remember Christmas as a child as a time of the year when dreams came true. I’d be on my best behavior, in hopes that Santa would bring me that special toy I’d been dreaming of, hoping for. More often than not, he did!
I have fond memories of spending hours looking through the “Toy catalog” my parents had every year, picking out that one ‘perfect’ new toy from its pages, carefully crafting a letter to Santa, with hopes, hopes only a child can have, of seeing it under the tree on Christmas morning.
Later in my teen years Christmas lost a lot of its shine for me. I worked in a retail store, and frankly, by Christmas I was tired. I was tired of restocking shelves with toys, gift wrap, and decorations and of increasingly irritable customers. Most years, by the time Christmas finally arrived, I was simply happy to have the day off.
That lost holiday spirit stayed with me for many years, I’d almost dread the arrival of the holidays, the rush, the crowds, I tried, but I just couldn’t seem to get the ‘spirit’ of the holiday back.
These days, I actually look forward to the holidays and I want to tell you why.
I’ve actually found the joy, the magic, in giving, giving, without knowing who the actual recipient is, just the simple act of giving something, to someone else.
You see I feel fortunate. I may not have a lot of money, or the biggest house on the block, but I feel that my life is rich in many ways, and at Christmas I’ve found a real joy in doing something, anything, to maybe make someone else’s life, just a little better.
I used to think, that I didn’t have enough money, to actually make a difference. The truth is, it doesn’t take money, all it takes a desire to do something for someone else, just because you can.
So, each year now, during the holidays, my wife and I find ways to share what we have with others. We’ll pick up an extra gift while shopping and drop it off at the Salvation Army, drop some money in their kettle each time we see one.
Some years we adopt a Christmas Cheer family, a family from the Salvation Army “Angel Tree” (or two), and shop for them, knowing that on Christmas morning some little kid will be wide eyed and happy Santa remembered them this year. While I’ve never met a parent in any of these families, I know in my heart that their faith in others has to be restored, just a little, as they watch those kids open presents.
In years where money has been tight, and work wasn’t easy to find, I’ve volunteered my time at various shelters, soup kitchens and rescue missions. If you want to feel really fortunate in life, you only have to spend a little time with those who are truly having problems to realize you don’t have any at all.
There’s something universal in the human experience of helping another person. It leaves us with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of the frailty of life and good times, and of how we all, really are interconnected.
This year, more than ever, our local charities are going to need your help. Their funds have been drawn down by the series of natural disasters we’ve experienced and the immediate job of helping all of those affected by them.
I fear that the amount of money left over to brighten children’s eyes this year, may be far too small to meet the need.
The magic in Christmas really is in the giving, it’s the reason parents delight in watching their children open their presents, and why they wish the kids could believe in Santa just one more year. When those children believe Santa brought them their presents, parents know the joy of giving, without the recipient knowing who really gave to them.
So, if Christmas has felt less than magical for you in the past, or if you already know the magic of giving, take a couple of seconds this year, do something, for someone you may never see, and feel the joy of giving like you may never have felt it before.
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