|My Mom's last Christmas, 2007.|
December 1st is two short days away. In my family, that is the traditional start of the Christmas season. Our Advent calender will be hung. We will start to decorate, make ornaments, and bake. Most importantly, it will be time to focus on other people.
Children learn by seeing and doing. With my first family, we went to down to Myrtle Beach, every year, a full week before Christmas. We spent that week at Helping Hands, stocking shelves, sorting, wrapping, and delivering gifts, filling holiday baskets. The smallest kids could help people carry their stuff to the car and wish them a Merry Christmas. All the kids would help deliver Christmas to those families having the hardest times- everything from church clothes and shoes, to lovingly wrapped gifts that they had wrapped themselves. Bags and bags of groceries. A live Christmas tree and handmade decorations to decorate it. Always a star for the top. My children still remember these days vividly and their first true awareness that not everyone had it as good as us. We weren't typical and life for them was difficult compared to the children they interacted with every day, but they learned that there were a lot of people that weren't as fortunate as they were. When everything was done at Helping Hands, usually Christmas Eve afternoon, my extended family would go back to my parents. There we would put up our tree and decorate it, there would be large trays of lasagna in the oven, and we would make the 7 o'clock service at my father's church. Our family belonged to many different denominations and each year, we would rotate which church we went to for Christmas morning service.
We don't do Helping Hands anymore. My parents and brothers are all gone. However, Christmas is still Christmas. We want our current family to have traditions and experience Christmas as a season of celebrating the Christ child, building family connections, and service to others. GB could not cope with the chaos of Helping Hands. Helping Hands could not cope with the chaos of Hope. One of our local kids, a ten year old boy who is autistic, has a yearly project of collecting donations and distributing Christmas bags to struggling families. This year I am picking up 50 gifts and on Saturday, the girls and I will spend the afternoon wrapping them. While we are wrapping them, we will talk about why we help people who are struggling have a little brightness in their season. MK will share her memories of Christmas' working at Helping Hands.
Family traditions change. You keep the values that are important.