Each year Christmas seems to come and go before I've even had time to "get into the Spirit." It's a constant cycle...we spend months in advance working overtime to buy a mounds of presents, only to have them ripped open in seconds, played with for a few days, then tossed aside and forgotten. With each passing Christmas I would find less and less enjoyment, and it seems to take me longer each year to get the tree put up or the lights hung. In fact, we didn't even bother with lights this year.
So, as the depression began to sink in the week before Christmas I decided to do something to get that magical feeling back, even if only for a day. I also wanted to remind my children what the true meaning of Christmas is...honoring the birth of Christ by giving to others and expecting nothing in return. I donated toys for the local toy drive and had the kids drop a few dollars in the Salvation Army bucket outside Hobby Lobby in Murfreesboro, and in honor of my son who's serving in the US NAVY, I donated to the military fund. All of that was fine and it made me feel good to know that it was going to help others, but something was still missing. Then I remembered the elderly that I had been hired to photograph during the Memorial Day celebration at Glen Oaks Convalescent Center and I decided this year we would give gifts to all the residents.
Thankfully Glen Oaks has a new D.O.N who is not only a personal friend of ours, but is also a wonderful administrator who cares about her residents. Julie [West] helped me organize a visit and informed me of the number of gifts we needed, etc. I'd like to thank Julie again for all her help. That evening I took the kids with me to help pick out 84 suitable gifts...it took us nearly 3 hours in Wal-Mart to decide and agree upon gifts that were most practical for men and women of a certain age. When all was said and done we ended up with handkerchiefs, checker boards and playing cards for the men and lotion, hand soap and bath fizz for the women. Our daughters spent the rest of the evening curling ribbons around each of the gifts and personally signing a card for each resident. It was finally beginning to feel like Christmas.
The next morning was Christmas Eve and Jimmy took the day off from work to help us hand-deliver the gifts/cards. We were greeted by a friendly and helpful staff who explained to us that many of their residents no longer have visitors, even during the holidays, and can often be seen crying from the heartache and loneliness. This touched our hearts and made our children more determined to spread some holiday cheer. We were offered a cart to carry everything from room to room, and our 4 year old decided to ride on the bottom of the cart and hop off to pass out presents...it was so cute and the residents got a real kick out of seeing her riding on bottom.
The kids were a little shy to start, but as they received big smiles and compliments from lonely and grateful residents they soon overcame their shyness and began to enjoy talking with those who wanted someone to listen, even giving and receiving hugs from some. There is nothing in this world quite like the feeling of bringing joy to someone who's nearly forgotten it. Watching my children and seeing the faces light up on those folks was the greatest Christmas present I could ask for, and we plan to make this an annual tradition in our family, and hopefully in others as well. If we all practice just one act of kindness-at Christmas and throughout the rest of the year-just think of the joy we can bring to others. As we end this year and move into another, let's resolve to "do unto others as [we] would have them do unto [us]." Happy New Year to All!