What could you do this Christmas?

Posted 12/1/10

    It was 12:42 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. I was standing in a line about 20 shoppers deep at a Wal-Mart in Grand Island, Neb., with my dad.

    I’m …

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What could you do this Christmas?


    It was 12:42 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. I was standing in a line about 20 shoppers deep at a Wal-Mart in Grand Island, Neb., with my dad.
    I’m not much of a shopper–my typical rule of thumb is to only visit a Wal-Mart store when absolutely necessary and only after 11 p.m.–so the thought of immersing myself in the Black Friday chaos was not appealing. But dad had spotted a mini-Jeep in the ads earlier Thanksgiving Day and he had wanted to pick one up for my nephew for Christmas.
    I couldn’t let him face the madness alone, so I put aside my own fears and offered to go with him. The Jeep went on sale at midnight, so after an 11:15 p.m. turkey leftover sandwich and a second slice of pumpkin pie, we were on our way.
    Black Friday shopping was new to me, so I was shocked to find the Wal-Mart parking lot already full when we arrived at 12:08 a.m. We found a spot in the back of the lot and rushed inside, happy to be out of the cold. There were no carts left, so we made our way through the jam-packed aisles to the back of the store, where we had scouted out the Jeeps earlier in the day. But by the time we got there at 12:10, they were already gone.
    The only other item on our list was a LeapFrog my brother asked us to get for his son. I pulled the ad out of my purse to find the one he requested and we went to the area where they were supposed to be. The shelves were empty. Another shopper asked what we were looking for and after we told her, she pointed us to the main aisle where she said she thought she had seen a few. We thanked her and hurried to the spot. There were three left. Dad held the LeapFrog up in victory and we made our way to the front of the store.
    Shoppers had carts overflowing with everything from movies to sweatshirts to basketballs to Iron Man action figures. The couple in front of us noticed we only had one item, and the man offered to let us check out in front of them. We thanked them and moved in front, and had a nice conversation with them for our remaining 20 or so minutes in line.
    As I looked around while dad checked out, I was pleasantly surprised: the true spirit of the holiday season was at work. Though the store was packed, everyone remained polite, patient and even friendly. There were smiles on their faces as they chatted with those around them. Across town, my brothers were bonding with those they met standing in line outside of Sears in the cold from 12:30 until 4 a.m. They left with more than a high-efficiency washer and dryer set each: they had made new friends.
    The holiday spirit was upon us–even Black Friday couldn’t kill it.
    My goal this Christmas is to try to continue the peaceful feeling I felt in Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. (Never thought I would say the words ‘peaceful’ and ‘Wal-Mart’ in the same sentence.) And I want to do something this year in the true spirit of the season: of kindness, of giving, of helping others.
    The pastor at my church challenged those of us in the congregation to do something for others this Christmas. It’s simple, he said, whether it’s baking cookies and taking some to your elderly neighbors, ringing a Salvation Army bell outside of a department store or buying two sets of Toy Story Lego sets: one for a child on your list, and one to donate to Toys for Tots.
    I realize money is tight for a lot of people, but there is no need to get overwhelmed when trying to think of ways to help. You don’t have to go out and purchase Christmas dinner and presents for an entire family (though if you do have the means to do so, go for it!), just get a pair of socks for someone who needs them, or clean out your closet and donate those extra clothes you don’t wear to someone in the community who needs them.
    When I told mom and dad about the pastor’s sermon and that I was trying to think of ways I could help, dad told me a story. He drives the bus for the school in my hometown and one day, a preschooler came out to the bus wearing flip-flops. It was freezing outside. Dad asked the little girl if she had other shoes to change into. She went back inside her house for a few minutes and returned wearing adult-sized socks with her flip flops—she apparently didn’t have any socks. Later that day, dad went to the mall and bought the girl a set of socks.
    “And they weren’t just any socks,” Mom said. “He went to Younkers and bought some really nice, cute ones for her.”
    The girl stepped on to the bus the next day proudly wearing a pair of her new socks. There are so many needs and so many simple ways you can help right here in Brighton. From talking with Kay Collins and John Carr, the founders of the local group, Brighton Cares, I began to see just how much of a need there is here in our community. For instance, did you know that nearly one third of the children in the Brighton 27J School District are below the poverty level, and more than 250 kids in our district are homeless?
    But as much need as we have in our community, it seems as if Brighton residents step up to meet those needs. I’m continually impressed by the level of kindness here. We at the Brighton Blade have teamed up with Third Way Center to collect stuffed animals for young teens who might not otherwise get a hug this Christmas. At last count, community members had donated more than 300 animals and numerous stocking stuffers for the kids. I couldn’t believe it when I came into our front office to see the boxes overflowing and I’m so grateful for your generosity.
    I’ve put together a list of ways you can help in our community this holiday season. Check it out and see which ones appeal to you. When you’re waiting in line at Wal-Mart to get that LeapFrog or mini Jeep, grab some socks, a package of T-shirts, or a children’s book to give to a child in our community who may need it. Or before you head to the self-checkout at the grocery store, grab a few cans of soup to donate to the local food pantry. It’s that simple. 
    Let’s make this Christmas brighter for everyone in Brighton.


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