by Stacie Chadwick
As parents, my husband and I expect our three teenage children to pull their relative weight in the family. Grades are important, chores mandatory, and the economics of a burgeoning life on their own are discussed and debated in a way that often puts five distinct personalities on close to the same page.
When it comes to Christmas though, all rules go out the window. Christmas is big in our house, just as it was in my parents’ when I was a kid. Piles of presents sit stuffed in traditionally unused corners of the family room. Artists from Frank Sinatra to the Backstreet Boys fill the halls with festive fa-la-las. With lights strung and 20-pound fruitcakes made and consumed, the month of December flies by in a perpetual blur of door-to-door friends and family fun. I’ve always loved the holiday season. Until the day came that I didn’t.
December 25, 2012 started off well – early as always because Christmas Day anticipation trumps sleep quality 100 to one. Yet, as our children ripped through present after present, hardly slowing down to see what they got or who it was from, I found myself feeling increasingly frustrated, so much so that I ended up storming out of the gift-gilded universe I’d created and locking myself in our room.
As I sat, curled up in a hormone-infused puddle of tears, I realized that in all my attempts to create the perfect Christmas, I’d forgotten the most important parts – selflessness, charity, consideration, and the giving spirit just to name a few.
So on December 26, 2012, I began my search for a holiday tradition with deeper meaning and, through the advice of a wise friend, eventually found it in an outreach effort on Christmas Day where hundreds of volunteers gathered to feed, clothe and serve an equal number of the homeless population in Denver.
The first year we volunteered was a little uncomfortable for everyone. It was freezing that morning, and shivering through her coat, hat and gloves, my youngest looked up as we unloaded our donations and simply said “I’m cold.” As I gazed across the landscape, her eyes followed mine to find hundreds of people huddled together as they waited for gifts that were considered givens in our everyday lives. A flash of recognition flickered in her eyes, and, speechless, she nodded as we all got to work.
As our holiday volunteering has grown over the years, so too has its significance in our family’s life. Christmas will always be the biggest holiday in our house, but what we do outside the warmth of our walls has grown to become even bigger.
To learn more about Christmas Day volunteer opportunities, email email@example.com. If you are interested in reading more from Stacie’s Reading Between the Pines blog, visit www.readingbetweenthepines.com.