It is a season filled with sights and sounds. Some are traditional, some symbolic, others are spontaneous celebrations. Friends and families gather, memories are made and remembered, and inevitably some photos are taken to capture the moments.
Not all moments that touch our hearts can be captured in a photo.
This year I have not done a good job at documenting my life in either pictures or words. Acts of kindness have grown into a group called Salina Shares, increasing in number of those who want to somehow help, make a difference, or impact someone else’s life. I can tell you that some of the most profound moments, I have no photos of.
Recently, we held a Christmas party for a group of families that we had planned for all year. Gifts were bought throughout the year and a major wrapping party was held in July. We were able to bless these families in a variety of ways that had meaning to them. What we did capture in photos, was a picture of each family with Santa or Mrs. Claus for them to remember the happy time they had there. What was not photographed were the tears that escaped before the women could catch them, as they were handed gift certificates to a local meat market.
When the party was over we still had gifts and brand new clothing left. I asked “Santa” if he would be willing to go with me to the “tucked away community” that I have written about on my blog in the past. He and his wife agreed. My daughter texted a friend who lives in that community to see if he was home. He was! She told him our plan, knowing that he was the one who could communicate with so many there, who otherwise would not come out of their homes for a stranger.
I will never forget the looks and smiles on those children’s faces when they saw Santa! We unloaded the boxes and tubs of gifts and clothing as mothers handed their little ones to Santa. One mom handed him her week old baby and took a picture on her phone. I couldn’t help but think of the scripture that talks about Jesus taking children in his arms and blessing them. That is exactly what our ‘Santa’ was doing. Honestly, had we taken any pictures it would have ruined the moment. Instead, we talked with them, smiled with them and gave to them all we had. The needs in this little community are massive. We have made efforts to spend time with them at their neighborhood park, to let them know they are not forgotten, but have never had access to so many of them as this unplanned, spontaneous moment.
We drove away with empty tubs and full hearts. I said to my daughter, “I just had Christmas!” We talked all the way home about our experiences there and how some of those children would never forget the day Santa came to them. My hunch is that the four of us will never forget that day either.
On Monday, December 22, a couple of friends and I met at a “Free Store” run by one of the agencies in Salina that houses women and their children in crisis. The Free Store is open to anyone in the community, not just those served by this agency. It was our third year of going there to serve hot chocolate and coffee and to provide gifts for the children or grandchildren of those shopping for clothing. We do not advertise, we simply show up one morning sometime during the week of Christmas.
We arrived a half hour before they opened and one woman was outside the door, waiting for them to open and beginning what would become the line to get in. She was festively dressed in a green jacket and a red hat but her demeanor was anything but festive. It was clear life had taken its toll on her. I said good morning as I took the first load in but she did not look at me or respond. When it came time to open, the manager of the store explained to the people in line what we were doing. This woman was first at our table asking if we by any chance had some cologne for her daughter. We wrapped it for her, wished her Merry Christmas and may have seen for a brief moment a little bit of light come to her eyes.
I only took one photo that morning and it was of the outside of the building from a distance a half hour before we opened. No picture can rightly tell the stories of lost jobs, lost health and lost hope that we heard that morning. Likewise, it isn’t easy for a quick snapshot to capture a brief moment of love, hope or faith restored by one small act of kindness.
At this highly decorated time of year, I am reminded that Jesus came, not with bright lights and beautiful adornments, but to a stable as an infant. God came, in flesh to us to meet our greatest needs.
I have spent 2014 meeting and listening to people who are trying to hold their heads up in the midst of great need and what feels like overwhelming circumstances. I have delivered food, clothing, toys and furniture. My prayer is that I have also delivered a taste of God’s love, mercy, hope and joy.
To all of you who have contributed the food, clothing, toys, furniture and money to be able to meet some of those needs, thank you so very much! It has been absolutely heartwarming to see how well Salina Shares!