When you’re a child there is always a question about Santa. Some parents take a lot of time and effort into making their children believe in a chubby, large elf with magic powers that wears a red suit, flies a sled with reindeer and magically fits down your chimney. They photo shop, make powder foot prints in the house, track his route online and do everything they can to keep this little bit of childhood magic alive. I dont think there is anything wrong with that but as a child I never celebrated Christmas and didn’t believe in Santa, and as an adult with children of my own, my kids figured it out pretty quickly because of the volunteer work we all do together. Through that we discovered something very magical, Santa REALLY does exist, and he wouldn’t exist without fist, the love and faith of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ through whom we have an opportunity to live forever, just like the spirit of St. Nick.
I guess when I first started celebrating I bought into all the marketing of Santa Clause that I didn’t really take the time to learn about St. Nicholas and understand what that means for a Christan. There is so much debate about this and every holiday. Was it really Christ’s birthday? Most likely, No. Was he even born in the Winter time at all? Highly improbable. Was this celebration first made to be in December because of the Catholic church wanting to appease people who wanted to celebrate something during the time of their other Pegan traditions? Probably. Does all this matter? Will you ever know the exact date of Christ’s birth? Is December 25th not a day that God hath made? Should we not rejoice in it? Should we not declare that if someone used a day for Pegan rituals that as a Christian we will take back that day for God and celebrate him each and every day to our fullest? Does teaching our kids about Santa mean that we take away from Jesus? All these questions come up each and every year and can stir up quite a debate. Let me give you another question. Are we wasting so much time debating details we may never know and making no progress that we miss out on the true meaning of Christmas and loose opportunities to teach our children and others about God, Jesus, Love and the Gospel? Spend less time debating and more time doing and more time experiencing. Only then do you realize that Santa really does exist! You can do your own research on St. Nick but I will let yall in on a secret. He was a real person!!! Yes he was! And in fact his parents we very devout Christians and helped many people. Some of their help was seen but most of the time their giving was in secret. Sure they we wealthy in finances but they were also wealthy in faith and love! After they passed away when Nicholas was a child he grew up to follow in their footsteps, however he did so in a time it was very unpopular to be a Christian. In fact the prisons at the time were more full of Christians then criminals and they were being prosecuted for their faith daily. The bible tells us to let our “giving be in secret” and to “not let your left hand know what the right is doing”. I think the story of St. Nicholas is a beautiful example of this that still continues today after his death. He helped many people in various ways in secret. Giving to others and loving them freely without needing to show off or take credit. Help them simply because he felt called to do it and they needed help. He did not live in the North Pole but rather grew up in Turkey and Santa was Greek! Its amazing how trying to make things more magical you loose true beauty that was actually real! If your children know how Santa began then every time they see him they will also think of Jesus and keep the holiday all about our Lord and Savior as it should be!
So now that you have heard my two cents and had a brief history lesson I want to tell you about how Santa existed through our little big city or Murfreesboro, TN this year. I’ve never really seen anything like it. Each year as a group we are thrilled to see God work. He allows us to grow and do bigger things each year which is a great lesson for us. When you are learning about and trying to make a positive impact on a huge issue like childhood homelessness at the same time, baby steps are a necessity! we had three big events in the course of a few days and it took a whole community to pull it off. I am humbled by how everyone pulled together!
1. Adopt a child for Christmas: We were given a list from a local elementary school of homeless or in need children that would otherwise not have a Christmas. We had a total of 40 children that we needed to adopt out. I dont know why I question if we can pull this off every year but every child was “adopted” within two days and by the most loving, kind and generous people you would ever meet! Besides the children on this list we were getting e-mails and calls each day by families, volunteers, schools and other organizations about children in need. To me this all seems over whelming sometimes. We are not a big organization. We do not have sponsors or grants. We are just a small community outreach group made up mostly of moms and families who want a way to make a difference and volunteer together as a family. We are all mostly broke ourselves and some have faced homelessness as well. We just enter everything in faith and do whatever needs to be done. God doesnt give up on us and we never give up on the tasks no matter how large. When it was all said and done, about 80 children were “adopted” for Christmas and the ones from the elementary school were invited to a Milk and Cookies party with Santa where the children were given “Santa’s magic bags” that will fill with magic on Christmas morning if they didnt peak and put it under the tree. It was amazing seeing people take so much time and effort into making these kids Christmas wishes come true. Hearing one little boy pass the stage and say “Look!, Someone is getting a bike” then getting to surprise him later because that bike was HIS, was one of my favorite moments! You should have seen his face! His jaw dropped!! Sure, when you do things like this, well….I will just be honest……sometimes the parents are not always easy to please or even grateful. Sometimes they will complain or seem entitled. That’s not how everyone is but there are always a few in the bunch but that’s okay! Maybe with love and prayer that in time will change and if not, maybe we can be their childs opportunity to break the cycle. For the most part the families we see are amazing and we are blessed to have them as friends! About 160 attended this event. Families had an opportunity to volunteer together and being able to pray with a room full of parents and children was great! One of the best parts was that the people who adopted a child were invited to volunteer so they were able to sneak a peak at the child’s face when they were surprised by Santa! Sure it wasnt really Santa who filled that bag but we are letting out giving be in secret….remember!? 🙂
2. Christmas party with children at Way of Hope emergency shelter:These kids are very near and dear to me and I love them like my own! Way of hope is a local emergency shelter that takes the women and children by bus to a different church each night. They transport cots and mattresses with them each day in a trailer and all their belongings can fit into a large black trash bag that they use as their suit case. As long as we have been working with them we see an average of 10-12 children there each night. Some of the kids are only there for a night but for some kids they have been their the whole time we’ve been working with this organization which is about 6 months now. A couple days before Chrsitmas, the night we have our normal playdate/bible study with them, we gave them the best Christmas party we knew how! The room we are able to use in the church is crowded, small and filled with cots, trash bags of clothing and a washing machine but that does not stop us! We kept the kids out of the room and decorated with lights, an inflatable Santa, “bear skin” rug, fake fire place, a small tree and a ride-able reindeer! We also brought in a special surprise! A small TV and an original Nintendo with Mario and Duck hunt! We ate milk and cookies, gave away presents, decorated the tree, read a night before Christmas, wrapped presents for their moms and listened to Christmas music. This one little boy new to the program sat on my lap and kept stroking my hair and face then he proceeded to climb on my back like a jungle gym. With all the fun things going on, moments like that will always be my favorite!
3. Operation Christmas Care!
Now this event is a DOOZY! Last year we kinda stumbled into doing this and it was on a much smaller scale. This year we knew what was needed and had time to plan and we love our Christmas morning tradition! It really defines Christmas for me now and I cannot thank everyone enough for making this possible! Our mission? To surprise homeless and in need children on Christmas morning! With what? Well toys, food, toiletries, Santa and most of all….LOVE! We had never done a toy drive before and for the first couple weeks our boxes were empty but man oh man! That surely changed!!! Groups, schools, businesses, churches, individuals were calling me daily wanting to help and we were getting donations right up to Christmas morning! One whole room of our home was stacked from corner to corner with huge boxes full of everything you can think of! And let me just tell you these were not just little cheesy toys! We had the best selection of toys from hot wheels to DS Lites and everything in between! Just this past Summer we had a small box of toys stolen and I am so glad my faith allows to to know God will provide instead of being too upset. I sat “too” upset because of course I am human and I was not very happy at first! God provided in a huge way through people in our community! We are such a small group and Angel Tree and Salvation Army are so popular that I was thrilled that others took the time to see what we were doing and show their support! Now toys, food, etc is one thing….but getting people to volunteer on Christmas morning? Forget-a-bout-it, right? Well let me just tell you! We had a line of about 12 cars in front of our home by 9am! Some were families wanting to volunteer together and give back to the community, some were teachers who see these children daily, some were single people without children, some were families who had experienced homelessness before or were even currently homeless. Some were regular volunteers and for some they had never met me before. We were all family that day and will continue to be no matter what! We decorated our cars and “set sail” as the biggest caravan I have ever seen with a “reindeer” strapped to the top of our van in the lead and the last vehicle was Santa hauling a trailer with a comfy chair strapped to it! We followed each other from motel, to housing project to shelter. Blasting Christmas music, knocking on doors and honking horns we gained the attention of over 100 children who were met by loving volunteers, Santa, Mrs. Clause, two elves and 12 vehicles stuffed full of toys, and any need they may have to choose from! From hand made scarves, home made cookies, any toy they wanted and much more we made sure they were spoiled and surprised! Lots of hugs to go around and smiles that wouldn’t quit! And of course it wouldn’t be a fun event if something didn’t go wrong. Two of the cars died at the same time! But don’t worry! Santa to the rescue! They both got a jump from Santa and we were good to go! Now to those who are skeptics….did some take advantage? Sure! Do we care? No! If we cared and stopped what we were doing because of a few who take advantage then we would miss out on the children who get left behind. I would gladly have many take advantage of our kindness if it meant we reached just one child who needed us! We are not called to manage what others do with our kind gestures, we are just called to love. Give freely. Grace is already given and not mine to manage so don’t stress and commit to love more. Maybe you will inspire those who need it the most!
THANK YOU! I want to thank everyone who made this all possible! Our wonderful and amazing volunteers who give of themselves 100%! Olympus Athletic Club, Chuy’s, Immortal Body in Ink, American Taxi and Shuttle, Stone Ridge Apartments, the churches, schools and individuals who helped us with toy/food drives! The many people who would randomly leave presents on our porch to support our cause. Heritage farms for donating 100 pints of milk to our Milk and cookie party. Rich Products and Julia’s Bakery for donating AMAZING cookies! 3 Brothers Deli on the square for allowing us to use their banquet space! Santa for helping us during his busiest time of year and Praise be to GOD who allows us to see his Holy Spirit at work.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to ALL!