It’s taken me more than 60 years to realize it really is the thought that matters when selecting and receiving gifts at Christmas time.
For most of my childhood and adult life, I believed the best gifts cost the most. The bigger, the better. If it was shiny, even better.
I was wrong.
I get it now. It’s far more important to put thought into a gift, not just push my credit card limit to the max.
This year, I gave Nancy a door for her shed. It’s not just any shed, it’s her she-shed. And it’s not just a door, it’s wrapped in vinyl displaying one of her favorite album covers – the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station.” It’s really far out.
My dearest friends will be getting my key lime cheesecakes. No bottles of booze or gift cards. These are coming from the heart – and my oven.
It doesn’t end there. I sent my grandson more LEGOS. He’s just like my son, he can’t get enough of them. My son is 41 and he’s getting LEGOS, too. Both are going to be thrilled.
I shifted a lot of my priorities to helping others. Nancy and I filled the requests of four Angel Tree children. It doesn’t make us important or noble. The truth is, as we started filling the bags for the four foster children, it was difficult to say enough was enough. Another toy. Another shirt. Another game. For a child who has so little, it might make a difference.
In all, the Salvation Army worked to provide Christmas for 400 children.
We then spent much of last Saturday at the Clay County Fairgrounds watching families pick up gifts as part of the J.P. Hall Children’s Charities Christmas Party. We made it a point to talk with families as they waited in the drive-thru to get toys. It was important to understand their need, feel their desperation and see their gratitude.
The needs were real. Many mothers fought tears as their little ones shook hands with Santa Claus and waited for their bags to be loaded in the trunk. Many were surprised when they were told as they were leaving the arena they also could pick a bicycle for each child to take home.
One mother, who’s waiting for heart surgery, said if not for the work of the J.P. Hall charity, her “babies” wouldn’t have anything under the tree.
The Christmas Party helped more than 1,400 children, and they also gave away 742 bicycles.
Take a bow everyone.
I wish I would have slowed down long enough to understand the reason for the season. It’s about giving. It’s about seeing a child smile. It’s about making a difference.
I didn’t go soft this Christmas. I still have strong beliefs about the direction of our country. But I also have compassion for my community.
I realize now you don’t need the smell of gingerbread and the sight of decorated houses to be charitable. It doesn’t take much. A sandwich for someone hungry. A blanket for someone cold. A ride for a friend who has an appointment and no transportation.
I don’t know what Nancy is getting me for Christmas, but I know I’ve already enjoyed my best Christmas ever. My family is in good health and my community is a little better for all of the hard work and empathy from my fellow residents.
Together, we all made a difference. Thank you, everyone, and Merry Christmas.
I can’t wait to do it again next year.