The Holiday season brings with it, an enormous amount of “seasonal” volunteers;those wishing to spread “holiday cheer”. I love what they do;visiting with the residents, singing songs, giving out cookies candy and spending time with each and every resident. December seems to bring out the best in people…..
People always tell me how “busy Christmas-time” is…..which I fully relate to and understand. But, my question is this: If Christmas is a busy time of year, how can so many people find time to “spread holiday cheer”, yet for the other 11 months, there is rarely a sighting of volunteers? Just a question of curiosity.
Back in the day when I was a little girl, I would follow my dad, who served as a pastor, to every sick and shut -in house within a 50 mile radius. Dad would sit with, pray for and console family members who had lost a loved one, showing compassion, kindness and empathy. When hard times fell on a family in the community, we as a church, would collect food , one can at a time, to give to those in need. As soon as we had enough to fill a few grocery bags, we would drive them to the home of the family, excited to be able to help in such a small way. My father instilled in his children the value of ” giving”, regardless of the season.
I recall one event that impacted me greatly as a little girl;a life lesson that continues to manifest in my life today. I was maybe 7 or 8 years old…..a new family had moved in to the community. They had not “joined” our church, nor had any interaction with church members. Dad had incredible radar for new people moving into the small town. He made a point to find out “whereabouts” they lived, so he could stop in for an introduction, welcome them to the community and invite them to church.
Once my dad knew where the new folks lived, he decided to go visit them on a Saturday morning. Naturally, being his shadow, I was ready to go!
We drove down a very long dirt rood, somewhat muddy, to arrive at a very run down house, that surely could not be inhabited by anyone. My dad never flinched. He got out of the car, telling me to sit still until he told me otherwise.I watched as he straightened his tie, buttoned his suit coat, and slopped through the red clay to the front porch.
The woman that answered the door seemed to welcome the town pastor into her home. My dad motioned for me to join them on the porch.
” This is my youngest child, Jessi. …….” Jessi, say hello to Mrs. Moran.”
I never knew a day of shyness, and being daddy’s little girl, I copied him in as many ways as I could.
” Hi Mrs. Moran, I am pleased to meet you ma’am.” I said as I extended my hand to her.
For over an hour, we sat in Mrs. Moran’s home, listening to how she her husband had been laid off from the coal mine, so they moved down south to be near her ” husband’s people”. She explained to my dad how their two children were not adjusting too well to the new school, partly because they didn’t have pants that fit.
” You know, boys grow so fast, one day their pants fit, the next day, they are knickerbockers. They have been teased at school for what they call “high-water britches”. But we are getting by with the help of the good Lord and Jake’s job over at the plant.” She seemed sad, but yet confident. Dad asked her questions about her children, ages and hobbies.
As we got up to leave, dad offered a prayer for the family….which Mrs. Moran seemed to appreciate. After that, dad us drove back home.
A few days later, as all of us kids came home from school, our mom was packing trash bags with clothes from the boys closets. She asked for their input as to what fit, what was too big or small…..she neatly folded each piece of clothing as she tucked in the trash bag. My brothers quickly sorted out their clothing….never questioning why.
The bags were loaded into the station wagon, and off my dad and I went…back down the muddy, long driveway. Knowing that the clothing was for the Moran boys, I turned to my dad , asking, ” Shouldn’t we have wrapped the clothes, or put them in boxes; something to make them look better?” I will never forget his words.
” Jessi, what we share with others is never contained in a box, gift bag or wrapping paper. What we give to others, is the gift of love, caring and concern. It’s never the packaging that makes the gift….the gift is not in the wrapping. People can tell the difference, where the gift came from, the store or the heart.Store bought is fine, but it still has to come from the heart. Understand?”
Before I could answer, we were at the Moran’s house. Again, I was instructed to, ” sit still until told otherwise.” Once he talked to Mrs. Moran, he motioned for me and told me to get the bags.
I carried them proudly to the door, handing them to her. I noticed inside the bag, some of my mom’s dresses, my dad’s shirts and pants, alongside of the clothing mom had gathered from my brothers. Mrs. Moran began t cry as she repeatedly thanked my father for the “gift”. She explained to him how grateful she was and knew her boys would be so excited to have pants that fit………..She turned to me and gave me the tightest hug I have ever had in my life, whispering “thank you”…..
Years have come and gone but the lesson of the ” gift “has never left me, I think about the gift, making sure it is the right one- heartfelt. I will always carry my father’s words deep in my heart….
So the “seasonal” volunteers are surely appreciated, but they too could benefit in knowing that the gift is not in the wrapping……..not in the month that the visit, the gifts they bring or even in the songs they sing.
The gift……comes from the heart….and is not in the wrapping.