Note: I wrote this piece a couple of years ago but after hearing so much positive feedback, I feel it’s time to bring it out again for this Christmas.
Thanksgiving is over and many of us have thrown ourselves headlong into Christmas. You’ve already braved the crowds, set up the tinsel and tree, the lights are up outside and you are marking things off of your children’s list! I’m as excited as anyone as it’s my favorite time of the year. But, this Christmas I want to challenge you to think outside of your four walls. I want to give you the opportunity to experience a life changing event, the ultimate Secret Santa experience, similar to the experience we had as a family last year and one that left a deep impact on the hearts of me, my husband and my children.
Christmas though, for many families this year, is not an exciting time. Many mothers and fathers are putting their heads on their pillows exhausted with the thoughts of how they are going to make it until the next paycheck. For those parents, who love their children as much as we love ours, Christmas can be terrifying because every parent wants that morning to be a magical experience for their kids. When in reality, for so many these days who are overwhelmed with just figuring out how to keep the lights on for another month- providing anything “extra” for Christmas seems almost insurmountable.
Many of you are givers. My husband and I have always been believers in the Biblical principles of tithing and giving to various ministries that are close to our hearts. We’ve practiced that since the beginning of our marriage and made it a priority even during times that we’ve had very little and it was a stretch for us to do so and in the times we’ve had a lot and it was easy. And, during Christmas we’ve always “written” a check with a little extra something for various outreaches to touch and help people in our community.
However, last year we decided to do something a little different. After discussing it, my husband and I decided to forgo any personal gifts that we were going to give each other and instead begin praying that God would put a family in our lives that we could personally touch. We wanted one that really had a need– not one that was just needing an XBOX upgrade or the latest I-Touch. After making about half a dozen calls to our church in search of just such a family we finally came across a staff member who said she had been hoping that someone like us would call because she had a single mom with two young girls. The mother had just lost her job and they were in terrible need.
I requested the phone number and called the mother. The mother was confused at first and then incredulous that someone would want to step in and take the stress of Christmas off her shoulders and after hearing her heartbreaking story I knew that this was the exact family I was looking for. Mom had just lost her nursing job and she was shouldering the responsibilities of raising 2 young girls under the age of 4. The youngest girl was just 2 years old with tremendous special needs due to the physical abuse of her father who was now rotting in prison as a result. I got a list of “wants” and a list of “needs” including clothing and shoe size and threw myself into making this the best Christmas I could possibly make for them.
A few days before Christmas, I arranged for our family to drop off our gifts. That evening, we slowly drove into the slums of an area that we make an effort not to venture into for safety reasons, an area where you lock your car doors and don’t look people in the eye. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little nervous about getting out of the car with my kids but as we pulled up to this little shack of a house, held together with duct tape and bubble gum, the mother opened the door with an enormous smile on her face. We walked in through the front door and the cracked and peeling linoleum was spotless and smelled like Lysol, clean sheets covered a dilapidated couch, and an old tiny Christmas tree straight out of Charlie Brown’s Christmas set lonely and quiet in the corner…with nothing under it. Her baby girls stood on each side of her, freshly scrubbed clean with wet hair slicked back from their sweet little faces and dressed in what was obviously the very best in their closet.
After a hug and personal introduction, my husband and my 12 year old son and my 7 year old daughter began making several trips from the car with armloads of wrapped presents and piled them under and around the tree. Before we left, I handed a letter with some things I had felt led to share from my heart and a gift card to the grocery store to the mother. As I did, she broke down emotionally and with tears streaming down her face she hugged me and said, “When my girls asked me who was coming over, I told them it was a family of angels who wanted to make our Christmas special this year.”
Our hearts were overflowing as we got back in the car and the ride back home was completely silent with the two older kids clearly choked up and moved by an emotion that they had never experienced before. I can assure you that while my kids couldn’t tell you everything that they got last year for Christmas under our own tree– they could give you just about every detail of that experience – and they won’t ever forget it.
My challenge to you is to be someone’s Christmas angel this year. There are thousands upon thousands of families in each of your communities that are hurting…financially, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s a time where you can reach out and touch hearts and impact lives that will leave yours and theirs forever changed. Call your local churches and ministries and find a family, or two, that your family can minister to in a special way. You may be financially challenged as well and Christmas may be tight for you too- but there is always something that you can do for someone with a greater need than you have. Maybe it’s one special gift for one special child, maybe you can make an extra ham and turkey on Christmas eve- deliver it with a note in the spirit of Christmas. You do what God leads you to do- but I challenge you, do something and earn your own pair of angel wings this Christmas!
Update: I’ve been asked many times where I suggest readers find a family to embrace for their Christmas challenge. My opinion is that you go through your local church or contact one in your area. They have ways of identifying families who are truly in need and who are also doing their part by leading their family spiritually and keeping them plugged in to a church family. It’s a great way of vetting a family with a true need.