It's that time of the year when everything seems to be centered around one topic: Christmas. In my household, the boys are busy working on their 15th version of their Christmas letters to Santa Claus. They apparently need a lot of 'things.'
My husband and I throw the old 'Santa's watching' statement around as a threat, thinking this will bring on better behavior. I find myself engrossed in catalogs, staring longingly at things I didn't know I needed. Conversations are focused around parties, shopping, cookies and plans for the holiday.
I love fighting with the masses at the mall to find the perfect gift. I love ringing in the season with friends at holiday parties. I shop. I decorate. I bake a ton of cookies. I buy more gifts and finally find an hour to pay my respects to baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.
The next morning is the star of the show though. I love watching my boys' expressions as they race down the stairs towards the Christmas tree. Their faces continue to light up during the day, between visits from grandparents to our annual dinner with all of the cousins with a special visit from Santa Claus. It's the most magical day of the year.
With all the joy, chaos, love, giving and receiving of Christmas, I always felt like something was missing, especially since I became a mother. I attributed it to a lack of religion. Attending mass only on Christmas Eve never did seem like enough, and yet, I've never done anything about it.
Unfortunately, it took a tragedy for me to realize what was missing. My small intimate Christmas that I cherished, was just that: small. When my niece was diagnosed earlier this year with brain cancer, the entire world seemed to wrap our family up in love. Strangers sent money, gifts, prayers, anything that they thought might help ease Gabby and her family's pain. When she passed away in September, the generosity did not stop. The love kept coming.
Gabby's dad, my brother-in-law, started to pay it forward. He went to Build-A-Bear on Gabby's birthday and paid for the next several kids who entered the store. The concept grew, just as Gabby's story did. The next thing we knew there were stories about free meals, coffee, gas–all 'for Gabby.'
The concept of paying it forward is nothing new, but I forgot about it for a very long time. This Christmas, I hope to introduce the concept to my children and make them realize that Christmas is more than just gifts and singing songs at church. This year I want it to be about giving back–paying it forward to our community.
Another local mom feels the same way I do. Stacey Gilroy is the mom who started the Second Time Around Consignment Sale at Marple Presbyterian Church and she recently shared with me that she has everything she needs:
“I may not have everything that I want, but I have what I need. I have two beautiful, healthy children. I have a home. I have a job. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends. And I have a successful consignment sale which is a great opportunity to reach out to the community. I want to give back. I want to do my best to help those less fortunate. I want to spread the word for people to help me to help others. If I can help a homeless person be warm for the night with a coat, or give some food to someone struggling enough to go to a food bank, or if I can get toiletries to someone in a shelter so that they feel clean, then that is a start. So it is for this that I ask for the community's help.”
This week Stacey is holding the 'Go Green and Give Back' consignment sale at Marple Presbyterian Church. There will be everything a child could want or need: toys, baby and toddler gear, holiday clothes, winter coats and boots, videos and books. But Stacey wants the community to know this is more than just a sale.
Stacey is asking for shoppers to bring canned and non-perishable foods for the local food bank. She also shared that Marple Presbyterian Church houses the homeless for the entire month of December. The sale will be collecting gently used coats as well as new hats, gloves, scarves, socks and underwear for both men and women.
Stacey is asking for the community's help.
I do think it takes a special type of person to give back to the community. But I have lived in Broomall now for eight years, and I have only met special people. What if we all gave back to the community? I'm sure everyone has a coat they don't wear anymore. The next time you are at T.J. Maxx, pick up some warm socks or gloves and drop them off at Marple Presbyterian Church.
I know what is missing now. I need to help other people. There are many ways that we can help others in our community, I just needed to open my eyes to see them. There are Toys For Tots bins in many grocery stores, the post office, banks and schools. St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Broomall accepts non-perishable food items for the needy of our community. The boiler room is open for drop-offs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. St. Mark's also encourages people to bring in gifts for their food bank clients.
I plan to get my boys involved in this effort to give back. If only I could truly explain the word 'need' to my boys, they might realize they don't really need anything.