Saturday, November 21, 2009

25 Days of Christmas

"Merry Christmas." Stacey handed the handmade ornament to the cashier behind the cash register at McDonalds. The woman tentatively took the ornament then began to cry. "For me?"

The idea had hatched in my busy brain. I could make small cross stitch ornaments with the kids' help. We could then take turns handing them out the first 25 days of December. So I sewed; they glued. Day by day, the pile grew. Anticipation grew as well.

One by one, the ornaments were given to a wide variety of people who were part of our daily lives. I gave one to the lady at the drive thru window at the bank. It hung in that window for years. Teachers, family, friends, a variety of people received these precious ornaments. But the best experiences were those we received giving ornaments to strangers. A passerby on the street, a clerk in the store, the list went on and on for 25 days. As the giving continued, new experiences were gained. It is a gift to the giver to experience the smiles, the recognition, the sometimes tears that accompanied the receiving.

"I work two jobs trying to feed my children and go to school so I can improve our lives. No one ever gives anything to me." As the woman's tears fell, the three of us truly realized the meaning of Christmas. For a few seconds in time, we made a difference.

"So, do you want to do what your mommy and uncle did when they were little? We can give out ornaments the 25 days of December leading up to Christmas?" Gabby wanted to hand them out immediately. Sydney wanted to make them. My hands no longer sew, and we don't have time to make them this year. Syd asked if we could do it every year. Ah, a good sign. They were hooked. A new generation is all set to make their small contribution to change a world.

We will go to the store and pick out our 25 ornaments. Hopefully, we can find a box of sweet, durable tokens representing a memory from strangers. Perhaps next years, the girls can take up the sewing where their grandma left off.

The look on a strangers face, a child, an adult, a shut in, a policeman, it doesn't matter. All are touched by this idea of giving to strangers. The children are changed by unforeseen feelings they discover when handing a small gift to someone new. Their eyes meet and for a second they connect. Hearts are warmed, and you can never go back to the person you were before.

No names exchanged. No expectations of gratitude. Only the giving.....and receiving.

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