‘Tis the Season

The holidays are said to be “the most wonderful time of the year” and most of us can agree on this. People seem jollier, weather feels nicer, and Christmas cheer surrounds us everywhere we go.

grinchhhh

The holiday season is filled with traditions unique to each culture and family. My favorite tradition that i share with my family has to be the day we put up the ornaments and bake holiday cookies while listening to christmas carols. This brings our family close together, even if it’s just for a couple of hours; between work, baseball practice, and me being away for college we find a way we can all hang out by decorating the tree and reminiscing on previous years.

A tradition familiar to us all is the opening of presents on Christmas morning. I remember as a kid falling asleep late, trying to stay awake to hear Santa’s reindeer on the roof and possibly sneak a peak at Saint Nicholas himself. I would wake up in the morning and run downstairs to find the cookies and milk nibbled and sipped, and underneath our Christmas tree, boxes of different sizes wrapped in holiday paper and ribbons. I would sit there not so patiently and make as much as “accidental” noise I could until my family woke up.

As I’ve grown older I’ve come to the realization that the magic of Christmas doesn’t necessarily wear a suit coated in red and yell “Ho-Ho-Ho”. This realization has made me want to make Christmas special for all the kids that have never experienced what I’ve been blessed to experience throughout my childhood growing up. For example, When Jorge told me about his idea to buy toys for 200 kids from our Climb to The Future program, I immediately made it my mission with help from family and friends to complete this goal.

When I heard we reached our goal it felt as if this could be the present to myself this year. Because I for sure don’t need anything, I am blessed enough to celebrate another year with my family in good health and spirit. Even though it was only 200 kids, any difference is a big difference in my book.That’s one of the main reasons I love Christmas. It is such a joyful holiday because of the spirit of giving. If it’s giving gifts to your family, participating in a Secret Santa with coworkers, or donating to your favorite charity, giving to others makes us feel good. It’s the do good, feel good kind of mood. 

“Make someone smile whenever you can, you never know how much of a difference you could be making in their life at that moment.” – Israa Ali.

The Best Christmas Gift

Having barely survived the end of the fall semester, my last semester of grad school, I was just happy to get what rest I could and live to work another day. It was just a few days before Christmas, but it might as well have been the middle of June as far I was concerned. I was as far from the Christmas spirit as I had ever been.

On the evening of December 19th, while leaning my head against the airplane window, the reality of what the next few days had in store started to sink in. I realized how lucky I was to be a part of what we were doing. We were on our way to Nicaragua to inaugurate the four homes we were providing to four families through our Happy Homes Project… And just in time for Christmas!

A new home and a new beginning

A new home and a new beginning

The next few days we spent with these four families in Villa Betania were simply AMAZING. The families were extremely thankful to be receiving these homes and goods, particularly for the sake of their children. I was equally thankful. Thankful for the donations that made this possible and for being able to see this through, but also just to be able to be with these great people and share with them. I felt more at home there than I do in my own apartment!

Here are not only families coming together to survive and strive for better days, but an entire community standing and striving together. Everybody plays his or her part in contributing to the greater good of the family, of the community. From the middle schooler who works an afterschool and weekend job to help his mom pay for her cancer treatment, to the community leaders who work tirelessly with us so that these families can receive these homes.

This is what Christmas is about. This is what life is about! We often get so caught up in our own lives and problems that we forget to look around, reach out to others, and keep in mind what really matters.

Little brother was quick to make use of his new bed

Little brother was quick to make use of his new bed

These families do not have much as far as material possessions go, but they live in abundance. Abundance of a sense of community, of camaraderie, of determination, of optimism, of joy, of compassion, of love. They shared these abundances with me and that seemed to dwarf everything we had been able to provide them with.

I left not wanting to leave, but I knew my family would be less-than-thrilled by my empty seat at the table on Christmas. I came back, but came back revitalized and with a renewed focus on the things that really matter. These families had more of an impact on me than they will ever know. This year I ended up having one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had, and in large part I owe that to these four families and Villa Betania.

In short, the best Christmas gift I got this year… I got through giving.