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Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

A Gift Returned

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm

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A few days ago we celebrated the holidays at Central Night Shelter with our annual party called “Mac’s Party”.  It is a celebration that was born out of pain and grief for my friend Carol who turned her loss into something quite extraordinary and wonderful. Carol rallies the troops—friends, students, fellow teachers, parents, and grandparents. They all come bearing gifts and donations. There are real Christmas trees to be trimmed with decorations made by First Graders. Children earnestly string popcorn. Bread, lunch meat, and all of the accompaniments are spread out as parents don plastic gloves to supervise young ones packing a hundred lunch bags and a hundred breakfast bags. Garland is hung. Tables are transformed with tablecloths and centerpieces.

 

Oh my! And the food!! Prime rib, shrimp cocktail, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken wings, broccoli casserole, ham, biscuits, and every kind of desert you can imagine. All of it is set up as a buffet and the men are allowed to fill their own plates and go back for seconds and thirds. Carol even brings containers for them to pack plates to go with them the next day. There is a whole crew of volunteers who work tirelessly in the kitchen churning out the food, making sure all of it is hot and delicious. The children stay busy refilling drinks, passing out extra napkins, and making themselves available to fetch anything the men ask for.

 

Santa Claus always makes an appearance even though this is his busiest time of year! He takes his time and goes around the gym speaking to every single person there. He poses for countless pictures and listens oh so carefully to the whispered wishes of the children. I always see him lean in close to talk to our guests. I hear him speak of love and magic and miracles.

 

Carol has gifts for each of the one hundred men: socks, hats, a McDonald’s gift card, and a ten dollar bill. The men are beyond thrilled with their gifts. The gift card gives them not only a meal but also a place to sit and be out of the elements for a bit. And, of course, cash is something they almost never see.

 

Towards the end of the party that evening one of the guests came up to me and handed me the gift card and ten dollar bill, insisting that I take them. I told him that they were a gift and belonged to him. His words to me were, “This Shelter has given me so much already. I cannot possibly accept another gift. You all have done more than enough for me.” And, with that, he walked away with a smile on his face. This small moment from the party keeps coming back to me. In our culture of want and need and must have it seems to me extraordinary that a man with seemingly so little returns his gift out of gratitude for what he has already received.

 

The gift of the party to the Shelter has been returned to Carol in the form of a healing balm. It has been returned to the community of volunteers who now find this gathering to be a highlight of their holiday season. The gift of the party to the guests has made them feel a part of a community that cares for and values them.  The gift returned to me in this small moment during the party has become a small gem I take out to remind me of the rich depth of my life, the magnitude of the gifts I am given each day, and the need to keep gratitude for it all close to my heart.

 

Photo Credit: Jessie Bashor