A Christmas Miracle

It was Christmas Eve 2001 and the two presents on the floor accentuated the empty space underneath the illuminated tree. Throughout the night, the emptiness crept from under the tree and into my heart. I was only 11 at the time, but I knew that this Christmas wasn’t like any other Christmas our family had experienced. Earlier in the year, my mom’s husband, my stepdad, started doing drugs and left our family. Money had been tight since he left, and I knew this Christmas would be different from previous Christmases, but I didn’t know how. Childish questions filled my head: “Now that he was gone, who would help me set up my new Legos Santa was going to bring me; who would carve the turkey?” However, the fear and anguish that Christmas Eve came from one very big unasked question, “Who was going to buy the presents?” I hadn’t thought to ask this question because, for the first ten years of my life, it wasn’t a problem. That night, sitting in our family room, staring at those two lone presents, the question was answered emphatically, no one. Those two presents, sticking with tradition, were pajamas that my mom bought for me and my sister. In past years, for Christmas Eve we would open our pajamas with an accompanying movie to watch before we went to bed. This time there was no accompanying movie. Realization struck as I realized there was no movie to watch tonight, and tomorrow there would be no Santa’s delivery. I began to understand that this was it for Christmas and I hugged my mom and told her how grateful I was for my gift and our time together. I knew that no matter how petulant I was, my mother felt 100 times worse.

 

We had already opened our presents but it was too early to go to bed, so we just sat around our tree and tried to enjoy the moment. The longer I looked at the empty tree, the sadder I got. “Why couldn’t this Christmas be like all the other ones I’ve enjoyed?” I asked myself. I decided to head to my room before my sulking became too visible to my mom and sister. As I walked toward my bedroom, there was a knock on our door. Assuming it was one of my friends coming to spread holiday cheer (I needed it at this point), I opened the door. To my surprise, there was no one there. I turned on the porch light as if the 60-watt bulb would suddenly make a friendly face appear. It didn’t. Instead of that friendly face I so desperately wanted to see, there was a Christmas miracle right at my doorstep. On our porch was a box that contained wrapped Christmas presents addressed to my sister and me. “SANTA IS REAL!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. After I brought the box of gifts inside, I begged my mom “please, can we open them?” She said, “No, if Santa brought them, we have to wait until Christmas morning.” I’m grateful that this was her response. That night I was able to go bed with the youthful, Christmas Eve restlessness I had experienced every Christmas prior.

I will never forget that Christmas morning. I never appreciated unwrapping presents as much as I did that morning. As I reflected on the thoughts and feelings I had leading up to the surprise delivery, I was glad that my sadness hadn’t carried over into Christmas morning. I still consider that Christmas to be the best and most important of my life. I have always said things like “Money can’t buy happiness” or “Gifts don’t make a Christmas special, being together does.” While these statements may have some truth, they are not absolute truths. I know that those gifts dropped on our doorstep that night completely changed my Christmas. Through the goodness of others’ service that Christmas and my life have been forever changed.

Toys for Tots

In our community, we have a great organization that provides less fortunate children with Christmas gifts each year. Toys for Tots creates Christmas “miracles” every year. Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity run by the US Marine Corps. Toys for Tots’ objective is “to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children.” Toys for Tots accomplishes this goal by collecting new, unwrapped toys during Oct., Nov., and Dec. each year, and then distributing those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.

There are many ways to contribute to Toys for Tots this holiday season:

Monetary Donations

Online:

      https://donate.toysfortots.org/donate/forms/events/Default.aspx?ID=22&nCmpID=UTOGDN

Mail:

      Marine Toys for Tots Foundation

     Gift Processing Administrator

     18251 Quantico Gateway Drive

     Triangle, VA 22172

Toy Drop-Off Sites

      Walgreens (Bryce Hardee, manager)

      2555 North 400 East

      North Ogden, Utah

      Last day to drop off: Dec. 20

     Mountain View Townhomes (Lashay Jackson)

     778 W Harrisville Road

     Ogden, Utah, 84404

      Last day to drop off: Dec. 15

To become a toy drop site visit:

      https://ogden-ut.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/local-toy-drop-form.aspx

The Lantern House

Toys for Tots provides a great service to those less fortunate children in our community but, If you’re looking for a more personal, hands-on volunteering experience, The Lantern House has great opportunities for that. The Lantern House (formerly St. Anne’s) is a 501(c)(3) that offers food and shelter to those in need. The Lantern House provides a great volunteer experience because it puts you directly in contact with those you are serving. There are many different service opportunities available at The Lantern House that are sure to fit nearly anyone’s volunteer style:

Activities – At The Lantern House you can put on activities for the residents. Group activities are a great way to get participation from the residents. Things like movies, games, music, events, art Your creativity is welcomed!

Donation sorting – From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday help sort and organize donations received from the community.

Professional Services The Lantern House can always use skilled services like plumbing, handymen, electricians, and almost any other skilled service.

Soup KitchenThe soup kitchen at The Lantern House serves two meals a day, Monday through Friday.

Lunch 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m.

Dinner 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The soup kitchen is open on Christmas and volunteers are needed. Dylan King, a local man who serves regularly at The Lantern House, encourages others to serve during the holiday season. He believes that the holiday season is “the best time to serve because it makes you grateful for the things that you have.” I would have to agree, community service any time of year is great but service during the holidays seems to be special. The biggest impact community service has had on Dylan came through his own self-reflection, “The thing that stands out the most to me is people that are my age. When I was in high school, I saw people my age and now I still see people my age. I guess I associate with them through their age because, at any moment, that could be me.” “It’s humbling, really, just humbling beyond belief. “His realization that,“it could be me” is a powerful thought. How would we want to be treated if we were in their position? Aristotle said; “What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” The Lantern House is a great place to find essence.

To be scheduled in the soup kitchen at The Lantern House please call: 801-621-5036 ext 104 or visit

269 W 33rd St, Ogden, UT 84401

Please call a few days in advance to schedule all service time.

The Christmas Box House

Madi Myers, a local woman, has spent the past few holiday seasons gathering donations of pajamas for the Christmas Box House’s holiday pajama drive. Madi strongly believes in the Christmas Box House motto “Every child deserves a childhood” and loves that her time and donations directly help children have the childhood they deserve. When asked what she loves specifically about volunteering at the Christmas Box House, she said, “I had a very good childhood and knowing other kids aren’t as lucky as I made me want to give. Working with the Christmas Box House made me feel so full, my heart was full.” This is the power of volunteer work. It has the ability to humble us and make our “hearts full.”

The Christmas Box International, known locally as “Christmas Box House,” is an organization that works to prevent child abuse and to improve the quality of life for children, teens, and young adults who have been neglected, abused, or are facing homelessness. Volunteers help with tutoring, mentoring, and interacting with children or young adults.

Unlike the other organizations in this article, Christmas Box House volunteer spots are full until January. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any opportunities to contribute. Christmas Box House provides shelter, food, and clothing to children all year long. During the holidays, Christmas Box House creates a “wish list,” a comprehensive list of all the items needed to provide services to the children that come to their facility throughout the year. Items on the list include basic essentials like shoes, shirts, and pants, as well as more age-specific items like baby bottles, “not mint flavored toothpaste,” and fitted twin sheets. Christmas Box House is a safe haven for children and young adults and even if you can’t volunteer your time this holiday season, your donations have the ability to change the course of a child’s life.

The full list of needed items can be found here-

https://thechristmasbox.org/ogden-project-elf-wish-list-2017

If you’re asking yourself “how do I find the time?” This may be the simplest option that can make a difference. Christmas Box House sells holiday greeting cards. If you’re going to buy holiday greeting cards, you should check out Christmas Box House’s options. Each greeting card features artwork by the Christmas Box House children. Card options are viewable at thechristmasbox.org/purchase-holiday-cards/

To order cards call 801-747-2201

or visit 950 12th St, Ogden, UT 84404.