Christmas has not always been my favorite holiday. When I was little, I equated it with everything I disliked about my life.
I was away from my loving grandparents and great grandparents. I lived in a tiny two-room trailer where my room also doubled as the couch.
Christmas time meant broken promises and lost dreams; no food on the table and listening to my mother trying to hide her mournful tears.
Because I was so young, I didn’t understand that my father’s promises meant nothing. I would listen with a hopeful heart as he told me about the things that Santa would bring as well as those he intended to buy himself. Not once during my entire lifetime with my father did he ever keep a Christmas promise or any other for that matter.
Year after year, all that was under the tree were the handmade gifts I knew my mother had lovingly made. In the mail, I would get a check from my grandparents. However, I always gave the money to mom so that she could buy staples that would have to last us until my birthday check came about six months later.
It wasn’t until I was around seven years of age that my mother finally decided that we’d had enough of living that kind of life. By then, of course, I knew there wasn’t really a Santa Claus.
Learning about Santa actually brought me some comfort because it explained why I’d never received anything from him. Up until that time, I just assumed that I must have somehow been bad and wasn’t deserving of a Christmas toy.
Once we were finally back at home in Oklahoma, I finally learned the truth about Christmas. I attended a wonderful church where I always got to play the Christmas angel.
By then, material things were of little importance to me. I knew the true meaning of Christmas wasn’t in what I would or would not receive but in what I could do to make that holiday special for others.
Every Christmas my mother, grandmother and I purchased as many dolls we could afford. Then we would use grandmother’s scrap material to make dresses for them. Mom would even hand crochet a few all by herself. No dolls were more lovingly put together than those.
After our creations were finished, we would proudly present them to a local charity as gifts for those children who would otherwise be forgotten. I didn’t want any little girl to feel that same pang of doubt about her worthiness to receive a toy.
We continued that tradition for a number of years; well into my teens. When Toys for Tots took over, we simply moved onto another charity. There was never a Christmas that we didn’t do whatever we could to make the holiday brighter for others.
I have carried on that tradition. When my children were small, we rang bells for the Salvation Army and purchased clothing to be distributed to those in need. We also bought gift items for Toys for Tots.
I still continue that generosity of spirit that my grandparents taught me. I look forward to the charitable work I do even today. Though the gifts may not be huge, they are decidedly heartfelt and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m not telling this story to toot my own horn. Those of you who know me, know that isn’t what I’m about. I tell it because it is what Christmas means to me.
After all, a baby born in a manager many years ago came to this earth not for glory or wealth or power. He came to give of himself and to make people aware of what the Father of us all had to offer.
I can think of no better way to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ than to do some act of kindness. Although I may give to others, in truth, it is I who am blessed. I can do something, albeit small, to let others out there that they are not forgotten and that they are never, EVER alone!