By: Lisa Petrarca
I wanted to re-post my true story, which happened over 13 years ago, but continues to leave a mark on my life today!
Christmas time was closing in on me and it had been a hard year. I was just newly separated and trying to support my three boys on a minimal income. Not to mention my ex was not paying child support, in fact he had completely disappeared. Christmas was just three weeks away. The panic I felt was so different from the years of joy that Christmas had always brought me. I knew that I would not be able to provide a Christmas for my kids. I was barely able to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. The agony and despair was tearing me up inside. I began having trouble breathing, not sleeping and would cry myself to sleep at night. The stress was almost too much to bear.
I was working at a bank and had made a few close friends. They were very sympathetic, uplifting and encouraging, always willing to listen and lend their support, which I must admit helped me make it through the days as Christmas drew near. The bank employees passed around the annual Christmas donation envelope, which would provide a Christmas for needy families, I took out a $5.00 bill and folded it so that no one could see the small amount of money that I was donating. I felt embarrassed at such a measly amount, but thought that there must be families going through worse situations than I was facing, families without a home, a warm place to sleep and food on the table. I quickly shoved the only amount I was able to give into the crisp white envelope and passed it to the person next to me.
Two days left, and still no way to get even a Christmas tree. I spent that long agonizing night awake trying to come up with some ideas to bring Christmas to my young innocent, trusting and excited children. What can I do to give my kids a Christmas? I awoke early and put on a cheery face for my kids. The dreaded day, Christmas Eve, I have never experienced a more miserable day in my life. The kids excitement was making it hard to fight back my tears. They thought that Santa would surprise them with a tree and the presents this year. I didn't even know what to tell them. How do you tell your sweet, naïve children that there would be no Christmas this year!
In the evening as I was preparing Macaroni & Cheese, which thank goodness the kids loved and thought was a very special Christmas Eve dinner, the doorbell rang. I opened the door and to my utter shock, there stood the entire bank staff, singing Christmas carols. Every single member of the staff was carrying armfuls of brightly wrapped presents with shiny silver, red and gold bows along with bags full of food, while the men unloaded a Christmas tree. The women hugged and comforted me as I began to sob uncontrollably.
The kids were squealing with excitement and said, “What’s wrong mommy? We told you that this was going to be the best Christmas ever”! The presents were flowing out from under the tree and seemed as if they were multiplying every time I looked over. They were spilling out from under the tree and into the entryway. The kids were running around the presents, trying to shake them to see if they could figure out what was inside. I looked over to see my youngest son being tossed in the air, blonde hair flying, cheeks flushed and giggling as he was caught and hugged. I had been chosen as the needy family this year. My “family” at the bank had made sure that my kids and I would have a wonderful Christmas. As I stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking over the picture in front of me, my only thought was, this is the true meaning of Christmas. These wonderful people have given much more than material gifts, they have brought the gift of hope, faith and love to a hopeless and desperate mother.
This was the best Christmas I have ever had and looking back over the years and all the gifts that I've received and the "must have" items, I can honestly say that not one of the material gifts stand out in my mind. The gift of love and compassion from others is something that I will remember for as long as I live. During this Christmas season I hope my story will encourage others to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, it is a gift that lasts a life time. As Christmas time draws near, I want to challenge everyone to give of themselves not only monetarily but give the gift of love, kindness and advice to those who are suffering, struggling or in need of encouragement. You will never know how much your small gifts will touch the lives of others and change their world forever!
1. Volunteer to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless
2. Visit an elderly person or convalescent hospital to spend time with someone in need of love.
3. Organize a food drive in your community to take to a women's shelter / homeless shelter.
4. Have everyone bring an un-wrapped gift to your annual Christmas party. Then contact your local fire station or police dept. to drop the gifts off for them to distribute to local charities.
5. Invite a friend whose family is far away to spend Christmas at your home.
6. Invite your family and friends to participate - donate presents/food/Christmas tree to a local family in need of a Christmas Miracle!
7. Take your entire family to an orphanage to visit and love on children who need it.
8. Offer words of encouragement, love and advice to someone in need.
9. Share your personal life stories of your triumphs and defeats. You never know whose heart it will touch.
10. Step out of your comfort zone and make a difference in the lives of others. You will receive the gift of the TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS.
And He said to me,"My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9
"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."