I saw these words twice in the last couple of days, "It's Not About Me." They seemed appropriate for the title of this post.
When I was a child, and even into my teenage years, Christmas was a time to look forward to. A time for surprises and fun with family. Parties with friends and giving. As a kid I was no different than any other and loved to receive that special something for Christmas. My most memorable Christmas was the Christmas of 1977.
Let's take a short step back first. The previous school year, when I was in the 5th grade, I discovered the flute. I remember watching a girl in my class play her flute and "show off" in front of all of us. My heart was smitten. I knew immediately that I wanted to play that beautiful, silver instrument. I ran home after school and anxiously waited for my parents to get home from work. I told them about this amazing instrument I'd discovered. I begged and begged to be able to play that instrument. Of course, I never realized what a hardship it would be for them to buy one. I was pretty oblivious to those kinds of matters. They finally told me that I could try it when the new school year started. In part, I'm sure they wanted to see if I were still interested in the flute six months later.
In 6th grade I joined the band. My mom took me to the music store and we rented a flute. My parents were smart people and figured I'd be excited about it for a while and that my interest would eventually wane. So, renting was a good place to start. But for me it did not wane. I think my parents knew that pretty quickly as I'm sure their ears suffered enormous torture at the amount of practice I put them through.
That year Christmas was special because my parents wrapped up the receipt showing they had purchased my flute for me. It was in the smallest box, wrapped in a bigger box, then a bigger box, then a bigger box.....Well, you get the idea. The final box was almost as tall as I was. A humorous catch to their surprise? They told me it was a present for my brother and asked if they could hide it in MY bedroom closet. So, I looked at that gift for over a month as I picked out my clothes for school, never guessing it was actually for me.
The warmth I felt in my heart the Christmas morning when I realized what my parents had done for me was so strong. The buying my flute part, not the tricking me with the package (although that was pretty funny, too). ;o) I was thrilled, more than I could ever remember having felt before. I was thrilled to the point that here I am, 33 years later, remembering that Christmas moment like it was yesterday.
I'm the lucky one. I have a childhood memory that I carry in my heart from year to year. But not every child has a memory like this one. I sure don't know any of the statistics, but I have met some of the children who are in this place I am fortunate enough to never have been in. The place of not expecting much. The place where you aren't going to get that big thrill from your mom and dad for Christmas. The kids I'm referring to are in a different place altogether. They are at the South Texas Children's Home. As a sponsor to STCH through my church, we don't know every story about why each child is there. But, what we are adult enough to realize is that a child at STCH is there because their home life is not a good one.
For three years now our church has sponsored a cottage at STCH. This year we were blessed enough to sponsor two cottages. Why do we do this? Well, according to scripture, what does God tell us to do?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
As Christians it is our obligation to make a difference. When you look at the big picture it's somewhat overwhelming and in some situations pretty heart-wrenching. The commitment and devotion the "Mom's and Pop's" (the cottage house parents) have for the kids who stay with them is incredible. Can we all be a Mom and Pop at STCH? No. That is a ministry in which one would receive a call from God Himself. For this reason, I wonder what can I do to make a difference? What can I do to give to others? What can my family do together so my kids can learn how fortunate they really are? How can we take out the selfish part of Christmas and find a way to bless others? Could I have made a difference going to STCH by myself? Maybe. But, when you gather together as our church family did -- a definite difference can be made and hopefully felt. Can our small talk and gift make up for the family these kids have lost? When looking at their big picture, probably not. But, if thirty three years from now, just ONE of them remembers the Christmas that this loud bunch of church folks barged into their world for a few hours bringing pizza and presents, it becomes worth every moment of the effort it took to get there.
We went there praying to bless others yet we left there being blessed in a way you would never understand unless you'd been there yourself or had experienced something like it.
One of my best friends NH said it perfectly - "going to STCH every year is my favorite part of Christmas."
Without a doubt, it is mine as well.