A Christmas of Influence

My favorite childhood Christmas memory stems from one of the most difficult transitions in my life. I am the oldest of five children and when I was seven years old my mom abandoned us. I remember my grandma driving us to my dads house and asking him, “Do you want them?” I dreaded the answer to that question but my dad, without hesitation, said “Yes!” I was relieved, scared, and ashamed, all wrapped in one emotion. We were left right there in the driveway with only the clothes on our back and the shoes on our feet.

Could you imagine the expense involved in providing just the bare necessities for five children? Two of which were in school and one still in diapers! Now add to that the cost of day care and groceries. Fortunately my aunt and grandfather, who my dad lived with at the time, provided the extra financial help he needed.

A mere three months later, Christmas was upon us. My dad already exhausted his resources and then some to provide us with the basics. Luckily for him my aunt loved Christmas and made it much more than getting gifts. She took us driving around to look at lights, we decorated the house and our very own Christmas tree. We even went to see Santa Clause!

Up until that point in my life, I thought Christmas was something that was celebrated by other people. I was cognitive of what it was and had heard about Santa Clause but my life was nothing short of turbulent up until that point.

On Christmas morning, my dad and aunt had to wake us up! We didn’t even think there could be more to the Christmas holiday. We were lined up youngest to oldest and walked into the living room. We could hear Christmas music playing courtesy of Alvin and The Chipmunks. As we entered the living room, we were shocked and squealed with delight. It was filled (corner to corner) with gifts. We had so much stuff we gave toys away to kids in the neighborhood!

That year those gifts made us true believers in Santa Clause. Little did we know that Santa Clause came in the form of very generous co-workers. My dad worked for a very large company and after hearing of his situation they jumped into action by collecting toys and clothes for us kids.

On the surface, it would seem obvious that this would be the best Christmas by the mere amount of gifts we received. However, when I think of the humanity and generosity of strangers it is still overwhelming to this day.

It has been nearly thirty years since that Christmas and I still remember turning the corner, seeing those gifts, and feeling, possibly for the first time, that I mattered enough to someone. Now, I know that someone was and always will be Jesus! We were indeed wanted.

Today it is because of the influence of those co-workers that I make it a point to give to others who are in need. There are so many ways to give a helping hand. You can give in the form of a prayer, your time, or a monetary contribution to worthy cause. You can adopt-a-family, pick a Christmas Angel, donate items to the homeless, send packages to our troops, invite others over to share a meal, or buy a single mom a gift just for her. The opportunities are endless.

1 Peter 4:10 says “Each of you should use what ever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in it’s various forms.” What gift have you been given? Your gift is waiting to make you someone’s Santa Clause! Who will you impact today that in thirty years your influence is still felt. Maybe, just maybe, with your gift, they will be unwrapping Jesus!

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