Monday, December 1, 2008

12 Days of Christmas...The Power of Service

I think I was in 6th or 7th grade. Being the oldest of 3 and in a newly divorced family, I knew too much at a young age and I also knew what to expect that holiday season. Looking back, I consider myself more mature than your average 11 or 12-year old. I kind of had to be...

My parents were living in the same town, different house, every other weekend, 2 house payments, money was tight, etc. I was prepped for a slim Christmas. I was fine with it...sort of. It was hard to comprehend having a "small" Christmas because quite frankly, we were used to BIG elaborate holidays. Santa was always more than generous. We were sort of spoiled. Yes. But this year was going to be different. Things had changed drastically.

My parents were both struggling in more ways than one. My brother and sister were too. I think I was fine. At least I remember being fine. But I could tell there was some sadness, frustrations, wasn't the happy feeling I wanted during the holidays. This had always been my favorite time of year, but not this time. It wasn't going to be happy at all.

Until one night during the first week of December . I still remember the day, I wrote about it in my journal. There was a loud knock at the door, fairly late in the evening. We gave each other the look, "Who could that be?" Everyone jumped up to go to the door. The porch light was off, so mom turned it on and my brother opened the door. Nobody was there. He went to close the door when my little sister yelled, "STOP! There's something on the ground." I pushed through and picked up a small green Christmas tree filled with chocolate candies. Attached was a note.

I don't remember what the note said exactly. It said something to the affect of "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...." and on it went. There was unexpected excitement as we ran out to the yard to see if we could see anybody, but they were long gone by then. We ran back in the house laughing, my mom smiling, as we tore open that cute little helpless tree and began to devour the yummy chocolates. Mom salvaged the tree and put it up on the shelf with other decorations where it still sits today.

The next night, there was another knock at the first it didn't register, but then we realized what it might we ran to the door and of course no one was there, but a beautiful crystal candle holder with two bright red candles. Beautiful. And a note that read, "On the second day of Christmas my true love gave me to me..." and on it went. Even though this was a gift our mom would enjoy, we were excited too. My mom's smile grew a little bigger as she put it on our dining room table and lit the candles. They smelled so pretty...the house began to buzz again....a little happiness filled up the room.

The next night, we were ready. We knew this was going to go on for the next 10 nights. We sat and waited outside, on the side yard, back inside by the window and so on...nothing. And then just as we were giving up and heading to bed, "Knock-Knock!" Dang it! We missed it again....

This continued on night after night. I could see my mom's stress turning into something more relaxed and her smile stayed a little longer each day. My brother and sister were a so excited as the sun went down each day anticipating the "Knock"! I was swept up in the wonder and mystery of it all. I could feel that happy feeling that loved so much coming back. It was so sweet to feel that again...

Night 12 had finally arrived. It was about 5 or 6 days before Christmas. My mom had been talking to me earlier that day about how she wanted me to help her make some gifts because shopping was going to be limited and the budget was just too tight this year. She was trying to think of ways we could serve and help other people....Huh? I kept thinking we were the ones that needed to be served. We weren't in any position to help anyone else, but that's not how mom was working....she still knew there were people that were going without. We were fine. But I could see the worry on her face that day. She loves to give. And this year, she wasn't going to be able to give to her three kids like she always did. It wasn't about her. It was about us. She just wanted to make us happy.

"Knock-Knock!" A scream slipped through the house as we all darted for the door hoping to finally catch our secret Santa! Nope, nobody there....but on porch laid a cute little house made of cardboard. It had individual boxes inside like a puzzle, 12 of them. We picked it up and ran into the house and set it on the table. My brother opened the first box and pulled out a 20 dollar bill. My eyes about popped out of my head. My mom's jaw dropped and we began opening the houses. Each one filled with $20. TWENTY DOLLARS! Times that by 12... $240! Yes, on the 12th day of Christmas someone gave to us $240 to use on Christmas. My mom's eyes began to water and she slowly began to cry as she realized that someone had just changed our lives. Not because she could go buy "stuff" for us. That wasn't it at all. It was because she saw that each of us in our young ages softened and felt the undeniable power of service. We all began to cry as we sat around the kitchen table. We knew that we were loved, watched over, and someone really cared.

To this day we do not know who did it. We assumed it was someone from church. But we still have no idea. I don't remember what my mom bought with that money. But what I do remember is the feeling I had that night as I realized what Christmas was all about. It's about serving others, sacrificing and becoming like Christ.

Since that experience, I have continued the tradition of the 12 days of Christmas. I've never been able to offer $20 in 12 little houses :O) But we have put some smiles on faces and in return felt the warm love of service. ♥

Tune in tomorrow for ideas on how you can start the 12 Days of Christmas! It's an amazing tradition that will change your holidays!


Melissa said...

What a beautiful story. People can do amazing things when they want to. I am looking forward to your 12 days of Christmas ideas. No matter how hard times are there is someone who has it harder.

Linda said...

That is so awesome! Can't wait to hear your ideas.

jen said...

Love your post. I look forward to our 12 days -- very inspirational.

heather said...

Agh! I'm crying dang it. That is such a sweet story!!

janice said...