Last Sunday our pastor spoke about, "The Perfect Christmas". I tried to think back to if I ever had "That Christmas" and the closest thing to it was the year I begged for a bike and woke up to find said bike under the tree.
Another memory I often reflect back to was when my father would take usto his church Christmas morning and then we would try and complete an act of service that day. Once year it was seeing an older woman on the side of the highway struggling to carry groceries through the snow covered sidewalk. We gave her a ride.
Another year the weather was REALLY bad and we saw a man trying to dig out his truck from a snowbank so we helped him. I could smell the alcohol pouring off his clothing. I think I was 12. That was the last year we did our annual act of service.
I think I have truly struggle these past few years because of my job. I work with low income students and it gets harder and harder to shake off the stories. My older students usually don't talk about home much, however, my 7th & 8th graders spill their stories like word vomit. I don't provoke and pry into their lives, they are just comfortable with me and are at and age where they aren't aware of a lot of what they are telling.
Prior to Thanksgiving there was a 12 year old telling me how the guidance office gave her a brand new coat because she showed up to youth group with her dad's old jacket. She had outgrown hers and her family didn't have the money so they just gave her "A" coat that would due. The church called the school concerned since these Iowa winters are harsh and to make sure she was getting lunch. She later went into many other things I won't disclose but it just breaks my heart.
I've heard stories of families not celebrating christmas because their car needed fixed and all the money they had went to that so mom could drive to work. Stories of not having heat in the home when it's -10 degrees out so they drive around in their cars to stay warm. Ugh. The stories. The lives that they were born into not by choice.
It's no wonder why I don't want to buy gifts just for the sake of it. Would'nt it be better spent if we all sponsored a person in need? Wouldn't it be better spent going through our old jackets and clothing and donating them to a family whos home just burnt down?
I'm not saying I'm not going to buy gifts this year for family and friends. I just know I will struggle with the idea as I have the past 3 years. I do feel good knowing that I've tried to give where I can; Church, Schools, The Christmas Mission.
I'm always open to more ideas though. If you have done some volunteer work in your community especially around the holiday please share! I would love to know more ways to give this season.