On the tenth day of Christmas, Christ revealed to me: a school of girls who gave to those in need.
Hallways of teenage girls – sweatpants, sweatshirts, Flo Rida’s “Whistle” steaming out of an iPhone, lights strung across lockers and boxes of Christmas presents piled high outside classroom doors. There was no talk of the tests in honors history class, or of the calculator programing project for AP Calculus, just banter about who has a date over winter break, where everyone is going for the holidays and bets placed over how many cookies one can reasonably consume at a Christmas party … 15?
This is St. Mary’s Academy. This is Christmas.
Wandering through the hallways of my high school alma matter, my mind was flooded with memories of the excitement that hovered in the air around the middle of December. Everyone was over ideas of stress and homework, ready to cash in their vacation on peppermint mochas and lazy mornings wearing fuzzy pajamas.
But before we were dismissed for winter break, we delivered Christmas baskets – ones filled with toys, games and clothes, food to enjoy for a Christmas dinner around the table.
My senior year, my dad offered to drive me and a group of my classmates to the apartment of the family whom we collected gifts for. We piled into the recently washed Mountaineer, scooted over the leather seats and immediately started singing along to a Mariah Carrey Christmas album that I popped in to serenade our way across Portland.
When we got to the apartment, I don’t think any of us recognized the building. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I had ever spent time in that neighborhood before, but I knew that just a few blocks away, there were folks strolling the sidewalks, carrying bags full of presents, eyeing through the windows of coffee shops to find just the right place to stop for a latte and chewy molasses cookie.
We loaded our arms with the gifts we had wrapped. With my eyes glued to the stairs, we shuffled along in a line, unsure of what to say when whoever was going to receive our gifts would open the door. ‘Should we act all normal and happy, laughing and talking up a storm like we usually do at school? Should we just give them the gifts and leave?‘
After a few knocks, a woman opened the door and a gentle smile washed over her face. I sighed and felt the anxiety of the unknown slip off my shoulders.
“Merry Christmas!” we sang, as we held out a plate of cookies, smiling and looking around for a place to set down our red-and-green-wrapped bundles.
I remember my dad talking with the mom, just like they were two people who struck up a casual conversation at the bus stop or waiting in line at a coffee shop. This woman was struggling that holiday season, trying to make it feel as “normal” as possible for her kids. While they knew that the presents and food had come from our class at St. Mary’s, I hope that they also felt that we wanted to give because they are our brothers and sisters. We wanted to share the Joy that comes when we bless one and other with something to be treasured on Christmas morning.
We didn’t know the family and knew that we wouldn’t go on to have a relationship with them, but we wanted to show love to them, because we’re part of a community that is compassionate. We are the church, we are the body, and each of us is a part of reaching out healing hands to give support to our family who needs us, who needs God given love and care.
While most of us are so excited to see what gifts under the tree have our names attached to the package, I hope that it’s the gifts that we give to others -people who are really in need of help- that we are the most joyous about.
** Check back tomorrow to see what Joy I’ve discovered on my 12 Days of Christmas journey. Miss Day 9, Day 8, Day 7, Day 6, Day 5, Day 4, Day 3, Day 2 or Day 1? **