I got what I wanted for Christmas!

Before Christmas, I posted my “Most Expensive Christmas List Ever.” Here’s what I found in my stocking:

Thanks to my father-in-law for allowing me to be a guest blogger here. I’m married to GJ’s oldest son.

As usual, in December my husband and I requested everyone’s Christmas gift lists so we could begin our annual shopping shuffle. Some are always easier to shop for than others but when we received Dad’s letter we were a bit thrown. Our first reaction was, “what a Grinch!” But as we thought about it, we knew he was genuine (stubborn?) so why not do as he asked? Our creative juices started flowing.

We decided to take our budgeted gift amount and donate it to a charity we know Dad and Mom believe in. We patted ourselves on our back for how we’d found a loophole, and moved on. But we thought about it for a day or two – it was too easy and didn’t truly accomplish any of Dad’s requests. It was nice and all but we didn’t have to stretch for it. Simultaneously, we were trying to find an activity in the spirit of Christmas to engage our daughters.

We’re living temporarily in a remote town with a single English-language Catholic mass, and we’ve got a great list of lousy reasons for not attending as often as we should. The Advent itch coincided with Pearl Harbor Day and a large veteran presence in town. We asked the local VA home if we could attend any ceremony they might have to thank the Vets for their service. It turns out there was no such event, but they welcomed us to visit the residents anytime. So creative juices again.

The girls & I spent the next 3 days making more than 40 Christmas cards for the Veterans out of construction paper and stickers, and the oldest wrote both of the girls’ names in each one. As we were showing them to my husband, one of us mentioned that maybe our parents would like to see what the girls had put into it. From there, it snowballed: we could do it every year as a gift to our parents and scrapbook a page or two so they could compile a book of the different activities.

Then all 4 of us spent a morning handing these out to the Veterans at the home and asking people for their stories. We were very warmly received by both staff and residents. (Probably stronger than “warmly” but “hotly” received sounds weird and doesn’t make any sense.) After the initial uncertainty about people who looked a little different, the girls got really into it, relishing shaking hands and sharing smiles. Several staff members told us how much they appreciated what we were doing; we got the sense that they don’t see too much of it.

Afterwards we asked the girls what they thought about the whole thing and the oldest said, “Good. It was fun handing things out. People were so nice.” That pretty much summed it up. It was good – good for them, good for us, good to show that people in communities care about one another.

After several failed attempts to name our little project we realized the answer was across the table from us: our daughters, who inspired the project – a new family Christmas tradition – and motivate us to be better people, our little angels; who had just finished making cardboard angels for our Christmas tree.

So thanks, Dad. Thanks for making us stretch. Thanks for making us more thoughtful. Thanks for inspiring us to take God’s love to the streets, so to say.

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