Every year, the FVMs plan and facilitate the Christmas party for the children that come to the Inn. We have a partnership with a local all-girls high school, Nazareth Academy (who actually volunteer at the Inn once a week), which sponsors the party. They bring presents for each child in addition to helping us organize and supervise the children at the party.
This year, Nazareth sponsored 24 SFI children, giving them a stocking, a board game (which they were allowed to open at the party), and a bag full of wrapped presents to open at home on Christmas day.
I've tried to be as neutral as possible while explaining the background of the party, now it is time to gush. The party was incredible! We ended up having about 15 kids attend that were so well-behaved, we almost didn't recognize them! The excitement and anticipation of what was to come (Santa and presents) filled the decorated dining room of the Inn! We had children showing up half an hour before the party started and were running around and screaming outside! When we finally let them all in, they sat patiently and waited for everyone to get there so that we could begin the magic show. One of our regular volunteers, we call him Sunday Jim, offered to perform a magic show for the kids, dazzling them with simple tricks that the kids just ate up! Afterwards, they colored and did arts and crafts with the Nazareth girls, all the while knowing who was coming.
At just the right time Santa came down the stairs with bells and a bag of gifts for the kids! You can imagine the looks on the faces of the children as their dreams were being fulfilled right in front of their eyes. Each child had the opportunity to sit on Santa's lap and the wonderful man (one of the Nazareth girls' father) spent individual time with each child asking them what they wanted for Christmas and about themselves. As they sat with their stockings and wrapped gifts in their hands, we made them wait to open them up until everyone received theirs! Miraculously, they all waited and then when we gave them the word, they tore through those presents!!! Izaiah, a little boy I hadn't met until today, was so excited by everything that he received. I heard him screaming "OH MY GOODNESS!!! I GOT AN ORANGE!!!" It doesn't take much to get these kids excited!
After the present excitement was over, we had pizza and cookies while the kids dabbled in their new presents. We waited until the parents got there to give them the big bag of gifts, but their eyes lit up when they saw more toys coming their way!
I haven't had time to fully process the day but I am overwhelmed by the generosity of Nazareth Academy and the joy I experienced through our kids. Every time I think about them or look at the background on my computer (which is the picture to the left), I cry. I cry because I can't comprehend what it must be like for these kids. These are probably the only gifts they open on Christmas morning. This is probably one of the few times they feel special. This was probably their one day out of the year when they get to be the children they are (I can't get into this now but will have more to say about this another time).
I can't even begin to express how blessed I feel to have been a part of such a special day for these kids! I can probably count on one hand the number of thank-yous we got today from the kids but thank-yous aren't necessary; the looks on their faces were enough. My heart is with these children and I am finally beginning to understand the true meaning of Christmas. It's not about stuff, it's about love. It is because of love that we are given the gift of Christmas and it was in these children that I truly experienced God's love.
The following is a link to an album of pictures I put on the internet:
Please take a look!
I pray you all are able to get into the holiday spirit! I pray that you are able to release the stress you are experiencing surrounding the coming holiday and are able to appreciate your family and friends and can give thanks for the blessings you have been given. God bless you!