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Friday, December 10, 2010



When our children were younger, we wanted to teach them the value of selfless service, so we hatched this idea to do the "Twelve Days of Christmas": you know, you pick a person or family who needs some love at Christmas time, and for the twelve days before Christmas, you doorbell-ditch them with gifts relevant to the family and to the season. The important part is to never get caught, and never reveal who you are.

We thought we were being so original. Nobody had ever thought of this. And the best part about it was, it would be our own little secret. We felt somehow betrayed or one-upped when we started hearing other people tell about their adventures doing the same thing. Well, we still kept our secret, and to this day, with our youngest away at college, it's still a family secret.


Can I tell another one?

Over the years, we have enjoyed giving selfless service, especially around Christmastime. We have been so blessed - or lucky, or simply well taken care of - that we have always wanted to give back by giving something to others in need.

Last December, after several years of joblessness and desperate financial straits, we had our Christmas carefully organized around our meager budget. On the Sunday before Christmas, our church had organized a Sunday-afternoon activity where we assembled baskets of food (not just goodies, but real groceries suitable for a Christmas feast) and delivered them to the needy families in our congregation. It was cold, and since it was close to winter solstice it got dark quickly, but we had fun serving in this way.

Not long after we returned home, our doorbell rang. I opened the door, to find a member of our congregation standing there with a basket of food for us. That stark moment of cognitive dissonance was like ... well, that's how it must feel to see yourself on TV for the first time. We had never considered ourselves "needy," but somebody did, and somebody cared enough to perform this act of service for us.

But we got a little extra in our basket. After I thanked the brother and took the basket inside, I saw an envelope nestled among the apples and oranges. I assumed it was a greeting card, but when I opened the envelope, several hundred-dollar bills fell out.

You know, I know that Christmas 2009 was full of fun times, and love, and family togetherness, but I don't remember any of that stuff - at least not with the photographic clarity with which I remember that basket of food. And now that we're back on a firm financial foundation, I never want to forget that basket.

Kim D

My favorite thing about Christmas is the early morning, while it's still dark outside. We three get a fire going in the stove, and we sit together, lit only by the light of the fire, the tree and one small lamp. We are together, the mother, the father and the son. We get coffee or cocoa and take turns sharing what's in our stockings. It's slow and easy and special. I treasure those mornings with "my boys." But we have no family here, where we've chosen to live, so some Christmases we travel to be with those we love. Last Christmas, we traveled to be with my mother. She's alone; my dad passed away six years ago. The holidays are especially hard for her because Christmas was also my dad's birthday. He loved the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the decorating, the cooking, and most of all, having family near. So last Christmas, we traveled to be with her. I knew my brother would be home. He works for weeks at a time on a boat, and often misses holidays. My sister said she'd be coming with her daughter who had just finished college, but her husband and two sons wouldn't be able to come. I was resigned to not having my special Christmas time, but it was OK. Christmas morning, it was just Mom and we three, and I could see what it meant to her to have us there. Then my brother and his wife arrived, and it was even better. Mid-day, I looked out the window and saw my sister and her daughter get out of the car - they'd driven 6 hours that morning to be with us. But they weren't alone; my brother-in-law and two nephews piled out of the car, too. The oldest is 27 and out on his own, so we really didn't expect him. And then we were all together, the whole family. My mother had all her children and grandchildren around her, and the joy was visible on her face. Thinking about her joy brings tears to my eyes today. Last Christmas was not the Christmas I thought I wanted, but it was the best Christmas I could have ever imagined.


I must write on my calendar for Dec 1, 2011 - "Read Amy's blog posts for Dec. 2010" - because these are all touching me in such wondeful ways and even the comments are full of the things we lose sight of in the midst of preparing for that special day.

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