Sunday, December 13, 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas Spirit Challenge

What is Christmas about?

I was hanging with a couple of girlfriends the other day and we were talking about Christmas. We talked about how it has become so commercialized that the true spirit of giving has become almost lost amongst the commercials, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, madness.

It’s about buying everything for your kids or buying the most expensive gift for a loved one even though they can probably buy it themselves.
Do you open your gifts with your children and on Christmas morning ask, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?”

When did it become about receiving? And seriously, everything you wanted? Is this what we want our children to believe? That all they have to do is wait for one day in December and everything they want will be packaged up in a pretty box and topped off with a bow, waiting under a Christmas tree?
We’ve lost the spiritual meaning of Christmas. And I don’t mean the spirit in the sky or wherever you believe it might be. I mean the spirit inside us. Each of us.

During this conversation yesterday, one girlfriend mentioned how when her daughter was younger they would take her daughter’s allowance and go buy toys to give to Toys for Tots. She taught her daughter that the true Christmas Spirit was about giving, not receiving. They still donate every year.
I have friends that will serve Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter. Of course, they serve at the homeless shelter more than on just Christmas, but he, his wife, and their two children give their time and their caring to those less fortunate. The spirit of Christmas.

Me, I have a thing for giving back. I want to make the Christmas of our Veterans a happy one. Every year a friend of mine who owns a small business in Bedford, NH called Just Naturals puts out the Veterans gift tree on Veterans Day. Then anyone who wants to give picks a tag from the tree that has a name, the branch of service the Veteran served, his/her age, and the list of what that person would like for Christmas. It’s a humbling experience.
They ask for the simplest things, the things you and I probably take for granted. They ask for cookies and candy, toiletries, socks, hats and gloves, sweatshirts and sweatpants. Occasionally you will see bigger items like a blanket, a comforter, or a winter coat. I saw all of these this year on the tags that I pulled. These are the people that I want to give everything they want, not because they asked for it but because they gave everything they had in serving our country and keeping us safe. This year my oldest Veteran was Robert, a 97 year-old Army Veteran. Merry Christmas, Robert!

This year I even reached out via Facebook and posted about my Veterans and the outpouring of support was amazing. The next thing you know a runner I just met a month before at the Marine Corps Marathon sent me money. An author friend of mine in Spain sent me money. Another author donated a 5 pound box of peppermint lollipops, and yet another donated clothing. There are many more people like these wonderful ladies who understand it’s better to give than receive.
But you know what? You do receive.

You donate your time, your energy, and sometimes even your money and it fills you up. It starts out small with a tingling feeling in the pit of your stomach that you can’t quite explain. Then when you’re wrapping the eighth package of socks to donate to a total stranger a smile curves your lips. When you place all the candy and cookies into a gigantic box, your heart skips a beat and starts tapping out to the beat of It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. When you package the box of toiletries, winter hats, and gloves, etc. for the Veterans home that is for those men/women getting their lives together after spending it on the streets and homeless, it hits you like a sledge hammer or one of those sappy commercials that you can’t help but cry. And when you stuff that comforter into a Christmas bag and all you hope is that Robert likes the color blue there's a warmth that feels your soul.
The true spirit of Christmas is in giving, and in that giving you receive so much more.

Those of you who know me know that while I may go overboard at Christmastime giving back, I mean how can I not, I also give back or pay it forward all year long. To quote Charles Dickens, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Will you? Can you?

Sometimes it takes a little push, a little incentive to get people to move in the right direction. Let’s see if we can do that.
We are 12 days away from Christmas. Less than two weeks. Your mission, should you choose to take it, is to give. Give to a total stranger an act of Christmas Kindness.

For the next 12 days - Give your time, your energy, your scarf from around your neck, or your money. Whatever you can afford to give. Give to a stranger.
I will bet you that if you do this, by Christmas morning you will have the Spirit of Christmas and you won’t soon forget it. Who knows, you might keep it in your heart all year long.

I hope you do and I wish you a very merry Christmas filled with love and the joy of giving!


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