I found myself daydreaming about past Christmas’. Remembering my two small boys, excitement filling their eyes, as we trimmed the tree and they talked about a visit from Santa, leaving cookies out for the jolly old man and carrots for his reindeer and shopping with their small savings for gifts for each other.
I remember Christmas morning in church and I remember always being surrounded by loved ones during the entire holiday season. How blessed I was to have my family and friends and God in my life.
This started me thinking about ways to "give back" for all the blessings I enjoyed. But what could I do?
Being a small restaurant owner left very little time for anything else in my life. My husband, one of my sisters who worked at the restaurant, my Chef and I got together to discuss ideas and finally we came to the conclusion that we could do what we did best and what we did everyday – serve food.
There were a number of homeless and needy people in my small town; a few even enjoyed a cup of our soup slipped to them while passing by the back door of the restaurant. A plan began to come together …we could serve Christmas dinner to families who were having difficult times. If we closed the restaurant early on Christmas Eve, we could serve them a Christmas dinner and still have family time afterward!
But who would help prepare the food and serve the food and do the dishes and cleanup …all on Christmas Eve?
We posted a letter to the restaurant staff titled "A Christmas Story – A Time For Giving" explaining our plan and asking for their help. In a matter of a couple of days we had more than enough volunteers to help prepare the food and serve it, wash dishes and clean up! "A Christmas Story – A Time For Giving" had the employees excited and eager for the chance to give of themselves during the holiday season!
The next obstacle was how to obtain a list of people to invite and how to get the word out about the Christmas dinner.
Many of the restaurant customers attended local churches and those churches sponsored a free meal for the needy every Thursday evening. The restaurant always donated food or money to help with those dinners. Could they help us put together a guest list?
I met with the person in charge of those Thursday night dinners and was told they would be delighted to help with our Christmas dinner plan. The churches would put together a guest list and get the word out to the needy at their Thursday dinners.
When we received the guest list early in December, we found that many children would be among our dinner guests. My sister said, "We have to have gifts for the kids." She and some friends held a charity party every year to raise money for needy families and they decided to give part of that money for gifts for "our kids."
The guest list included the age and sex of every child, so Sis was able to purchase appropriate gifts for each one.
Those that volunteered to serve Christmas dinner also asked if their children could help. Who could deny them the pleasure of serving others! The kids had the time of their lives serving the Chef’s scrumptious roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie for dessert.
When every appetite was satisfied and folks lingered over coffee, my sister and her helpers presented wrapped gifts to every child. Every one of us was blessed when we saw each child’s eyes light up with surprise and happiness. It is a very special feeling to bring a moment of joy and a full tummy to those in need.
The restaurant continued this Christmas Story – A Time For Giving every year thereafter. We never lacked for volunteers. Unfortunately we never lacked for needy guests, either. But it is a fabulous experience to have people in the community stop by or telephone to offer their help every year. As it turns out, there are many caring people who want to "give back," to share in a celebration of God’s blessings to others.
"A Christmas Story – A Time For Giving" is simply people helping people. It is what Christmas, and life, is really all about.