Sharing the Gift of Christmas

My mom and dad are good at giving gifts. Lately, they have given us tickets to a cool cultural event. Two years ago we went to see Les Misérables (which was great), and last year we all went to a Mannheim Steamroller concert (not one of their better choices) together. However, this year, they were truly inspired.

Early in December, at our monthly birthday cake gathering (the first Sunday of the month) they presented us with our gifts and told us to all unwrap them at the same time. Everyone unwrapped a picture of Jesus Christ, a stack of a hundred $1 bills, a $50 bill, and a note. The note read:

Merry Christmas!

Our gift to you this year is one that we hope will help us all really feel the Spirit of Christmas.

We have give you some money. The $50 is for you to use for whatever… family to dinner, movie, or anythings else. The dollar bills are to be used in a clever and fun way, however you see fit, to share some “Christmas” with others who are not in your family. They can be used $1 at a time, or in one big gift. We hope this will be a fun and rewarding experience for you. We would like you to write up the details of what you chose to do with the money, print it out, and we will read them all before the lighting of our tree on Christmas night (any photos or recordings would be fun, too). This will be your gift to us! We love you all so much!

Dad and Mom

We all talked about a bunch of options on the drive home that Sunday night, but weren’t sure what we should do. We had a family night the next evening and discussed even more options.

Several of the kids had fundraisers going on at school. So, we gave some money to each of them to contribute to their own good causes. Here is  a breakdown of the funds:

  • $60 – Neighborhood “Christmas Donuts and Donations”
  • $10 – Mac’s Gifts fundraiser at MRJH
  • $15 – Make-A-Wish foundation fundraiser at Highland Elementary
  • $15 – Lunch surprise for a friend

The best part about this gift was that it helped us look for opportunities to serve during the holiday season. The money and the challenge to give it away thoughtfully were a great “head fake” (if you haven’t read The Last Lecture, you should go do it now), the real gift was putting our entire family into a service mindset for the month of December.

Anyway, here is the report of the activities and causes we supported with our $100:

Christmas Donuts and Donations

Manina and her friend Marianne were chatting on Voxer about neighbor gifts. They talked about how they were unnecessary and an added stressor during the holiday season. Marianne said she wanted to organize a food drive in-lieu of neighbor gifts, but said it would probably have to wait until next year. Manina saw the opportunity and told Marianne that our family would like to help make that happen.

So, even though it was a last-minute decision, our whole family jumped in to help Marianne organize the event. We financed and picked up the donuts and hot chocolate, and delivered flyers around the neighborhood.

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On Thursday, December 18th we brought donations for the food bank. We had about 80 people show up in a driveway, huddle around a fire, eat donuts, drink hot cocoa and donate food.

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Marianne posted a picture on Facebook that showed 328 lbs. of food donated. Not bad for an inaugural event. We had fun supporting this event. I hope it becomes and annual tradition in our neighborhood and that it continues to grow each year.

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Mac’s Gifts MRJH Fundraiser

Mountain Ridge Junior High had a fundraiser supporting Mac’s Gifts, a charity that provide gifts for children with cancer. It’s the same one the BYU basketball team has been involved for a number of years.

Jake and Megan each donated $5 to the cause. Jake is the student body president of MRJH, so he was very active in planning the fundraising and even shaved his head alongside a teacher for the cause. Jake was able to go with the MRJH student council to purchase the gifts, and then give them out to the families at a celebration even held at the NuSkin building in downtown Provo.

Make-A-Wish Fundraiser

Katelyn, Claire, and Drew each took $5 of the money to donate to the Make-A-Wish foundation. They had a visit from a young cancer fighter named Annaleah who has a wish to sing on Broadway. Highland Elementary had  a school-wide fundraiser for Annaleah, and each of our elementary school students contributed to making that happen.

Lunch for an long-lost friend

Manina and Ellie met me for lunch one day at Cafe Rio in Orem. I was a few minutes late and the girls were already in line when I came into the restaurant. I ducked under the line barrier and offered a lame excuse to the cute couple whom I had just butted in front of. The guy said no problem, but then paused for a second and said, “Hey, wait, don’t I know you from somewhere?”

I took my first real look at the guy and it was Mark Wilson from back in the days when I lived back in Alpine. Anyway, we chatted for a while as we waited in line to order and it was good to catch up with him just for a few short minutes. When we got to the cash register I told the cashier that I was paying for the meal for the couple behind me. I wish it could have been more of an anonymous surprise, but Mark and his wife were very thankful for this little act of kindness. We wished them a merry Christmas and enjoyed a nice lunch, which was even better than usual because we had just done a good deed.

So, we are grateful that we had the opportunity to share the gift of Christmas with others this year. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

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