My mother has ruined my children. When everyone else is beginning to plan their Thanksgiving menu, my household is already buzzing with busy little elves preparing for Christmas. Our “large” family has grown larger (new daughter in law), the younger kids haven’t had much opportunity to make money due to our recent move and the college kids are hard pressed to cover school and living expenses, so I suggested we all draw names and buy only one present. The protest was instantaneous and boisterous; besides, all of them had been stashing presents since summertime and their hearts were set on finding or making something special for each and every loved one. These kids LOVE Christmas and I have my mother to blame.
At some point in my childhood, my siblings and I laid down the rule that Mom couldn’t crank the Christmas music before August. That was the best we could do. She was rolling out trays of traditional German Christmas cookies before Thanksgiving and of course the house was decorated as soon as she could get away with it. We always had a rocking Christmas party, complete with gallons of the hot, spicy Cranberry tea I have since shared with multitudes of fans. She kept the tree up into the new year but started planning and shopping for the next Christmas as soon as the sales began on Dec 26th.
I remember a Christmas when every single present was hand made (by my dedicated and talented Mother) and our dinner came from a box of donated food. The sound of knocking on our door that Christmas Eve will forever be etched in my memory, along with my Mother’s tears of gratitude that we had a turkey AND toilet paper. Yes, they were thoughtful enough to pack toilet paper in that miraculous box of neighborly love. Our family was usually hit the hardest whenever economic recessions came along, but lack of money didn’t lessen my Mom’s Christmas spirit. That’s because it wasn’t about the gifts, decorations or food; it was about hope.
My mom began parenting as a dirt poor, teenage high school drop out running from an abusive relationship (actually, a lifetime of abuse) but she already had a master’s degree in hope. Hope is what kept her going and it’s what made her a successful mother despite all that was against us. It’s what propelled me further than the generation before and it is what my children are infected with today as they blast the Christmas carols and secretly work on the special gifts and crafts they are anxious to bestow.
I am currently reading an excellent book about social change, “A Path Appears: Transforming lives, Creating Opportunity.” Those who are giving their lives to fight poverty along with those suffering in it’s grip say that hopelessness is the biggest killer. Successful initiatives against poverty are the ones that administer hope. Isn’t hope what Christmas is all about? We are celebrating the coming of a Savior. God here in the flesh because He loves us and is willing to give the greatest sacrifice to get us back to Him. This is what we have to offer a broken, hurting, hopeless world.
I cannot solve all the world’s problems, but I can share the hope of Jesus with how I live my life. I can be a true neighbor, like the Good Samaritan, and love the one in front of me. Extending hope can be as simple as paying an electric bill, helping with childcare, fixing a tire, speaking encouraging words, cooking a meal or spending time in a nursing home. It can be as inexpensive as $38 dollars a month to pay school fees, provide medical care and food for a child that otherwise would never have the opportunity to break out of the cycle of poverty. Who knows- you might be extending hope to a leader and world changer. Our family has decided to share hope by sponsoring impoverished children overseas along with relicensing to be a foster home in our new community. You can start small and see where the adventure takes you; I promise you won’t be disappointed. I propose we consider hope as a year round Christmas present we are blessed to give every day. Christmas all year- now here’s an idea my Momma will love!