People say that "Charity Starts at Home", but what so many people fail to realize is the importance of that statement. It doesn't mean that the Lawyer's son needs a new BMW for his birthday, or the Doctors daughter needs another trip to Paris. For that matter, it doesn't mean that we need to give gifts to our husbands and wifes, boyfriends and girlfriends, fathers and mothers. Those are all 'wants' and all of the people mentioned would still love you anyway.
What "Charity Starts at Home" really means is to help others. It means finding a worthy cause and helping someone less fortunate.
Luckily, I've found just such a cause.
Michigan, December 24th, 2012.
The Mayan Apocalipse hasn't happened after all. Life is still going on. Families are getting ready for bed in hopes Santa will be there soon with lots of goodies. Home after home, the kids are snuggled in bed with visions of rocking horses, lolly pops, Barbie dolls and Lego's in their dreams. The tree is trimmed with tinsel and lights. The parents are down stairs, adding the last few ribbons and bows to the brightly colored packages under the tree before snuggling before the fire to sip their hot cocoa. Even the cat is in the spirit of things, snoozing on the rug before the fire. The dog watches the sparks lift up through the chimney. Nothing in the world is wrong here. This will, yet again, be the perfect Christmas. It's just how Mom and Dad planned it. It's just as it's always been - two parents, two children, two pets, all living in happiness and harmony.
But just a few blocks away, things are a bit different.
Imagine standing on the front steps of a small house on a quiet street. It's no more or less quiet than any other, but there's something different about the stillness. It's nearly unsettling.
If you were to look through the window, you would see a woman, sitting alone by a lamp, her eyes raised toward the heavens. Her hands are clasped together in obvious prayer. She's a kind and generous woman - remembered by me personally as having been one of so very few willing to lend a hand when I was robbed of all of my belongings when my uHaul was stollen. She would give her last breath for her children, her last shirt for her friend and her last prayer for a stranger.
Her tree is an old artificial tree used for too many years, and the decorations on it are all made by her three children. Instead of tinsel, they've done what people used to do so many years ago and strung popcorn on thread. The floor doesn't have the decorative carpet, and no pets can be seen. The room is well lit, but there still isn't much to see. She's had a hard year. Raising three children alone isn't easy for anyone.
Upstairs, three children are in bed. They're not going to bed hungry - their mother would give her last dime to keep her children fed before herself. They have dreams too, just like the other children. They dream of prom dresses, Holiday Barbie and the latest Lego Star-Wars set, just like all the others. But they know that those are only dreams. Their mother has already told them that she can't afford much this year. They know that their tree will likely only have one gift for each of them beneath it. Johnny needs a new pair of shoes. Cindy needs a new nightgown. Caroline could really use a new bookbag. Their mother would put nothing for herself under the tree. She dosen't feel as though she deserves it. She feels as though she has failed her children.
Their mother, the kind soul that has given everything she has into raising her three children to these ages, expects nothing more than what fate has left before her as she rests on her knees in prayer. Yet, as much as she loves her children, her prayers aren't for a Christmas Miracle. Her prayers aren't even that she had more money and could give them more things. Her prayers are for those less fortunate than herself. Her prayers and thoughts are for those who can't afford even the used pair of shoes under the tree or the nightgown she had to sew by hand from the old ones or the bookbag mended over the Christmas break.
She's anything but selfish. She does pray that her children have a nice Christmas, but she knows that their dinner will depend on the kindness of their few remaining family members coming to visit with pies and cakes.
Jennifer doesn't want her children to grow up thinking "Christmas is just another day," so she decides in her moment of prayer that she will share with them a story from the Bible - the most famous story from the Bible, and the one story everyone who celebrates Christmas knows almost by heart.
The baby Jesus was only given three gifts, from the three wise men. Jennifer thinks to herself "I have three children who are getting one gift each, though some are recycled. I can't pretend to think my children deserve more than Jesus himself got on his birthday." She tries to justify the meager gifts beneath the tree, but she knows that she is failing. She believes she has already failed. Her face contorts from the emotional pain. Her uplifted eyes close. The tears begin to fall.
She can't imagine what she'll do when she sees the disappointed looks on their faces in the morning.
This Christmas, I know someone who needs help. She's not asking for it, but we're going to do everything we can to make things better for her and her family. Even if she did ask for help, none of it would be for herself. She only thinks of her children. Won't you help Jennifer and the children this Christmas? It's a cold one up there in Michigan. We aren't asking for much, but whatever you can send to her and her children would be a huge help.
If it's a Christmas Card, that will lift the spirits.
If it's a letter, that will encourage the family.
If it's a dollar, that's a dollar's worth of thread for sewing the backpack.
If it's a grocery store gift card, that might just be a Christmas Dinner.
If it's clothing, the children will be warm.
If it's toys, they just might have an "average" Christmas after all.
ANYTHING helps. Charity Starts At Home, they say. Can't we start in Jennifers home?
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