Friday, December 20, 2013

Cupcakes, Cookies, and Christmas Books--A Tale of a Special Christmas Party

My job is one of the greatest sources of stress in my life. It is also one of the greatest sources of joy. Imagine being bombarded with 16 kindergarten through fifth graders who have just sat through an entire day of school—most of them have ridden the bus for over an hour before coming to school. Needless to say, the kids are often already wired and reckless or tired and cranky. One day the program is utter chaos, and I feel like I’m a chicken running around with my head cut off dealing with one crisis after another. Other days I wander around, scratching my head, wondering who kidnapped my rowdy kids and replaced them with calm, respectful kids. I like those days J.

I liked yesterday too. And yesterday was the opposite of calm!  Yesterday was our Christmas party, and all of the kids had just come from Christmas parties from school—where there was candy, cookies, games, and no structure whatsoever. My kids came running down the hallway with grins on their faces and arms full of gifts from their teachers. And this is when my heart melted.

My kids attend a low income school—and it shows. They show up wearing old clothes, worn shoes, and hungry bellies. I’ve never seen kids so excited about eating fruit as these kids! They rely on the school to provide breakfast and lunch for them as the only meal they are assured is dinner. On the weekends they are sent home with food and if they miss school on Friday, that means they and their families will go hungry. A few of my kids cry at least two times a week because they don’t want to go home because at home, they are hungry. It breaks my heart.

Special days at school are a million times more special to the kids at this school than they ever were for me. Teacher gave me cookies? No big deal—mom would help us make Christmas cookies over break. Teacher gives us a bag full of pencils, erasers, and a sharpener? Who cares? I have plenty of pencils at home.  For my kids, these simple things are the truly amazing. The church we have our program at put on the Christmas party for us, where they provided apple cider, a fruit and vegetable tray, and Christmas cookies for the kids to decorate. Those veggies disappeared so fast, I could have blinked and never known they existed. They were thrilled to have fresh veggies to snack on!

But the greatest part of the day was seeing my kids open their hearts and give. Immediately when the kids came down from their classrooms to come find me, they were searching for what they could give me. One of my sweetest, funniest students insisted that I take the wrapped present that her teacher had given her, and I knew that if I said no it would break her heart. After making sure she was absolutely sure that she wanted to give me her gift, I graciously accepted it and opened it with her.  It was a Christmas book, which we then read together; a sweet moment I will hold in my heart. Another student gave me the fluffy cupcake she’d gotten from her classroom party, and then later gave me the cookie she had frosted—decorated with treats I had given her as a gift.

These three things—a cupcake, a cookie, and a Christmas book—will hands down be my favorite gifts this Christmas, as I know that the little ones who gave me these things had nothing else to give. They will most likely not wake up to a Christmas tree overflowing with gifts like I did as a child. Who knows if some of them will even receive one thing? Still, I did not see one pair of sad eyes in my program yesterday, because what they had been given was more than enough. To me, it seemed like so little, and for them to give what little they did have truly touched me.

I will miss those little stinkers over Christmas break. I pray they are blessed by others as much as they blessed me yesterday.

Merry Christmas

The Widow's Offering

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on."

Mark 12

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