“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year.” –Charles Dickens
I truly believe this heartfelt sentiment will mean many things for many people, so in the following post, I am going to try to express how these words have touched me.
Three years in Athens have blessed me tremendously and truly given me the opportunity to fall in love. I have fallen in love with these people and this city, and it has just been a joyous season of life.
As a freshman, my roommate, Mallory Cobb, and I decided to sign up to volunteer for a nonprofit student organization called Shop With A Bulldawg (SWAB). This organization serves children living in poverty in the Athens-Clarke County community by giving them an opportunity to experience a joyful holiday.
Mallory and I chose to participate in SWAB’s Event Day, one Saturday in December where we would be paired with a child, and then, we would shop with him/her for Christmas presents.
We were stoked, we had a blast, and we made a pact that we would participate again together. Yesterday, Mallory and I partook in our third event day. It is humbling to know that each year we have helped alter the trajectory of a child’s Christmas in a positive manner.
I believe that SWAB has taught me two valuable lessons which exemplify the words of Charles Dickens that I included at the beginning of this post. These lessons symbolize what it means to honor and keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year.
- Actively participate in your community.
This truly will look different for every single person.
If you reside in a city, then you will be “receiving from that city.” Your children will be receiving an education. You may be receiving a paycheck. You will likely spend time at the city’s ball fields, churches, and local shops. In your years of living, you will receive abundantly.
Therefore, I believe it is imperative that we give back. Volunteer in a nonprofit organization, in your church, or in your child’s school. Pick up litter from the streets that line your neighborhood. Mentor another community member. Just do something.
The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of giving back, and giving back should not be confined to the month of December. I love being a part of a special day that is dedicated to giving back to the children of Athens, but these children desperately need to receive more than one Saturday. There are so, so many programs in Athens dedicated to tutoring and mentoring. I am thankful to participate in some of these programs as well because it is the other organizations that keep the spirit of Christmas alive even during April showers and May flowers.
- Recognize the importance of gift giving.
This topic can spark tension in our culture. How do you find a balance between focusing too little or too much on gift giving? Again, this is going to falter to everyone’s own discretion. Nonetheless, we must remember that giving gifts is important, and fun, and necessary!
Gift giving is done out of love and care. You give a gift to someone because you know them or you are getting to know them. You choose wisely based on their quirks, tastes, and specific styles. You give what you know they want but will not ask for. Or, you give as a means of meeting someone’s needs. Whatever the reason, you are a blessing.
A huge part of the American Christmas tradition is gift gifting. SWAB is centered around it. For this year’s event day, Mallory and I were paired with a fifth-grade student named Ty. We could meet her needs and wants by purchasing gifts! Her favorite gifts were new art supplies: a sketchpad, coloring book, and a large pack of colored pencils.
To keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year though, we must give ourselves permission to both give and receive gifts. It is the smallest token such as a birthday card, a souvenir, or flowers that exude affection.
By being active in our communities and participating in gift giving, we will do our part to keep Christmas alive all year. I am so thankful that a day dedicated to Christmas taught me that if I let it the Christmas spirit will remain alive for 365 days. And who can object to this?