I had an enjoyable time serving as a volunteer for the Christmas Store program through my church.
It began with my serving as what I termed a “poultry elf” delivering Christmas food packages to the cars of the hundreds of families who were signed up to participate in our Christmas Store. Without mentioning any names, it actually began with the daughter of the Christmas Store coordinator coming through the door with a family while serving as a personal shopper.
Oops. I’d better tell you about the Christmas Store. It is a wonderful program that seeks to provide a Merry Christmas! to families in need. As families show up for their appointments, a family photo is taken with Santa, which is printed out and ultimately given to the family as a nice card. This year we had The Best Santa Ever. The man was a giant teddy bear who towered over 6’6″ and didn’t need a pillow with his Santa Suit. This volunteer was there every single day for 12 hours a day during the four days the “store” was open and never missed a single family (again, out of HUNDREDS of families). Little boys would stare up at this giant in sheer amazement. The Best Santa Ever. I had one of those “ahhhhhhh” moments when Santa got up during a short break in the action to cool down outside in his red “They don’t call it the North Pole for nothin'” suit: half a dozen children sitting in the foyer immediately sat at attention and waved and waved shouting, “Hi Santa! Hi Santa!” I said he’d be back: he just had to check on some reindeer. Mind you, our Santa looked like he could have wrestled down and saddled up a polar bear and ridden IT. Best. Santa. Ever.
After the picture, children go into rooms according to age to wait while their parents “shop” for their gifts. The Christmas store has one “big gift” and “two small gifts” for every single child. Last year the coordinator cried describing a miracle to the congregation because they had been OUT of gifts and suddenly nearly a dozen enormous bags of presents showed up in a locked room in which only she and the church staff had the key. It was ALWAYS kept locked because lots of presents were in there that were yet to be brough out onto the floor and we didn’t want them stolen for the sake of the children to come. And the coordinator knew there were no more presents because she’d gone in there minutes earlier and freaked out to find an empty room with families still coming through. And then whammo, suddenly there were awesome presents! Those presents got the store through the rest of that final day. She is to this day convinced that God beamed those presents into that room. I don’t know who – or Who – put those huge bags in there, but to me it is every bit as much a miracle that God could move someone to buy that many presents and then smuggle them into that locked room at just that right moment. Either way, it’s always amazing to see how God works, isn’t it?
Anyway, a “personal shopper” escorts each parent, guardian or couple through the rooms that the appropriate gifts for the children’s ages are displayed. The personal shopper gets an opportunity to talk with and pray with the parents as they go through. After the parents pick out the gifts for their children, they go to the wrapping room to wrap the gifts while the children are waiting in classrooms with volunteers. They aren’t just “waiting,” mind you; they get to hear about Jesus Christ.
After the gifts are wrapped so the children can’t see them, the parents pick up their children and proceed outside – where a food package is waiting for them. Each family gets a 13 lb. turkey and a large box of canned and dry goods.
So anyway, the daughter of the Christmas Store coordinator comes out while I’m helping as a “poultry elf” and tells me that this family gets two packages because she’s signed up to go through the store (she’s a young, poor, single mother herself) and she wants this family to have her food package.
Well, that’s neat, I thought.
Anyway, I was serving for a couple of hours bringing the food to the families’ cars when I came upon one particular family. The mother was so surprised and so delighted about the food that it lit me up. They had five kids and she told me both sets of grandparents were going to be there. Well, I did the math and came up with the decision to give this family another food package. And watched momma’s face light up with joy again when I came out to their old car with it.
I interrupt my narrative to add the fact that this family was black and that the people who provided all the food were rich old white people who are clearly greedy by liberal definition. Because greedy rich old white people on behalf of the chapel at an incredibly caucasian-populated “snowbird trailer park” common to our area had spent over $5,000 buying those turkeys. Other rich, greedy white people had bought all those canned and dry goods for these families to have a Merry Christmas dinner regardless of their race, culture or creed. And a whopping share of families spoke only Spanish. Which is really quite surprising given the “fact” that rich greedy old white people hate them Mexicans so damn much.
I just wish that the liberals who so frequently slander evangelical Christians had the slightest clue about how much money and time we give to the people they slander us for hating. I just wish that they knew that Christians in thousands of churches give billions of dollars to the needy; and that maybe they would rather be able to do that than let Obama seize their money so he can give it to political boondoggles like Solyndra. But as hard as it is for a rich man to enter heaven, the Bible is even more clear that it is even harder for an ignorant fool to ever become anything other than an ignorant fool.
We also gave away lots of toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, pretty much you name it, we gave it away) to help these families. One young Hispanic family just had lost everything in an apartment fire. We found them immeidate housing, and gave them clothes, jackets, blankets and everything we could round up to give them. And we’re not done with that family yet, either.
But I digress.
I told the coordinator what I’d done knowing that she wouldn’t be happy with me and knowing why she wouldn’t be happy. Those turkeys had to last for all the families. And my “generosity” could cost another family such that they didn’t get any food at all.
Well, I thought about it. The worst people on earth are those who are “generous with other peoples’ money.” We call them liberals and they are the worst, the most self-righteous, the most sanctimonious people on earth as they seize money from people they demonize in order to cynically redistribute it to people who will vote for them and keep them in power. And it didn’t take very long to occur to me that if that situation were to arise, well, I owed that family. After all, I had given that extra food package to that family. And if anybody needed to “pay his fair share” to take care of the family that may not have received a package because of what I did, it was me with my own money; not the “Other People’s Money” with which liberals “help.”
A figure just popped into my head with crystal clarity: $35. That was about what each food package cost as I thought about the cost of the turkey (about a dollar a pound at Wal-Mart) and the canned and dry goods. I made sure I had $35 cash in my billfold and decided to monitor the turkey situation and make sure I would be there for the first family to not get a turkey if that situation occurred and give them $35. It was worth it; I’d felt led to do it and it felt like the right thing to do.
As it turned out, we had more than enough turkeys. I was “spared” having to give money to some family I’d deprived. And I felt further vindicated that I’d done what the Lord had led me to do.
Yea for me.
But it turns out God wasn’t done with that $35 that I now merrily thought was mine again.
You see, there was another issue that was going on at the same time. The daughter of the coordinator was trying to give away three very cute puppies that she’d brought in her old minivan. The son of our Santa Claus – a teenager who had ADHD – made it his mission in life to give away those puppies. And he gave away two of them. One of them went to a mother who had just lost her dog when it jumped out of her car. When she heard that these puppies were a mix of the same breed of the dog she lost, she came over and ended up adopting a pup. Her son was soon holding that dog and utterly refusing to give it up. But the third puppy was a different story.
It clearly had an eye infection, because it’s eyes were “gooey” and rather painful looking. And nobody wanted it because they didn’t want to get stuck with the vet bill.
Santa’s son was beside himself worrying about this puppy he’d tried to give away all night. He had waylaid each family as they came out clutching this puppy to his chest to keep it warm. He was afraid that nobody would help it and it would die. He desperately wanted his dad to let him take that puppy home – but it was pretty obvious that this was one Christmas wish Santa was NOT going to grant.
I heard the daughter of the coordinator talking to some other volunteers. She didn’t know what to do. Even the shelters wanted to charge her to take the puppy, and she couldn’t afford to pay for a veterinarian’s office charge.
I heard a young man say that the Animal Samaritan’s charges $35 for a vet visit, not counting the cost of the medicine the pup would surely need. Which was WAY too much for the daughter to afford.
And then I heard God say, “Ahem.” I didn’t have to look up at the sky and point at myself with a questioning look. I knew He was talking to me.
And I realized that God had been buttering me up just like the turkeys I was giving away with the notion that I should pay $35 for a food package for a needy family. Because He’d known that I wouldn’t have otherwise felt very led to give money for the care of somebody else’s puppy problem. You know, unless He sneaked it in on me. I love animals, but I generally give my money to charities for PEOPLE.
That’s when I realized that I’d already devoted that money to the Lord, whether I’d thought so or not. And the Lord had a use for it.
Because I didn’t WANT the Christmas store to run out of turkeys; and why was I “off the hook” to the Lord for money I had already committed to Him simply because the Lord had graciously come through and given me what I wanted? And I realized I wasn’t giving money to help a puppy; I was giving money to help PEOPLE to help that puppy.
I suddenly blurted out that I would be willing to pay that $35 vet bill – which just somehow happened to be the exact same figure as the figure that had been repeatedly in my head regarding the cost of the food package. And another guy immediately volunteered another $20 to help that puppy out.
Found out this morning that that sum was exactly the cost of the entire vet bill for that puppy. And that it will be fine now.
Well, there was another little miracle in this story: that teenage boy was determined to take that puppy home because he was worried about it and wanted to make sure it was okay. He’d come to love it because he’d held it and watched over it for a good share of the day. When I came out (this being after the last family had been through the store) there was a rather raging argument going on between that kid and his no-longer-Santa dad. But I was able to calm the boy down by assuring him that the puppy would get to go to the vet and somebody would surely adopt him when he was recovered from his eye infection.
It’s so often amazing how God works. He worked for a mother and young boy who had just lost their dog by giving them an adorable puppy of the very same rather rare breed that they had lost; He worked for the coordinator’s daughter who wanted to do the right thing for that little puppy but was daunted by the cost of doing that right thing; He worked in the heart of that ADHD boy who may have been worried about that puppy as an extension of himself (if the puppy was a throwaway because of its eyes, was that boy a throwaway with his ADHD?); and He worked on me, frugality and all. Because He brought me through a process – as He so often does – to the point where I was able to see things HIS way and then rejoice at the outcome. I’d started out reluctantly being willing to pay for the consequences of something I’d felt led to do. I ended up trying to think of how I’d ever spent that same amount of money that had brought me more sheer pleasure than this – and couldn’t think of a single time in my life.
There were scores of people who received Jesus through the Christmas Store, not counting those who were rededicating their lives to Christ. Over nine hundred Bibles were given away. God moved, whether any atheist could see it or not. And He moved in large ways and in small ways through His people.
Merry Christmas! Celebrate the birth of the King of kings.