It is Christmas Eve and a wonderful time of year.
How, I wish I had grandkids, close by. There is nothing like seeing the spirit of Christmas in a child's eyes.
Each Christmas, one of our family traditions has been to deliver gifts to a family, anonymously.
I'm sure the married kids can remember the young teenage boy with cancer, who wanted tennis shoes for Christmas. The kids learned that year that it was hard to deliver a frozen turkey, tennis shoes and a box of gifts, and run, without being seen.
I believe the kids can remember the family who lived in the burned mobile home. One son, dressed as Santa, delivered the gifts while the others watched. Santa lost his beard while running toward the car.
I hope they can recall our Spanish friends who had nothing for Christmas . . . and the looks on the children's faces when they saw the gifts at their front door.
I have tried to teach my children the real meaning, the truth and spirit of Christmas. I'm hoping they are passing the same Christmas “giving” on to their children.
This is what is wonderful about family. While teaching our children what is right and good, we pass our traditions forward.
I witnessed my mother, each Christmas, serve others. As children, we may have received fewer gifts, but we never knew it. Our hearts were full.
I have also learned the same lessons of service from my friends.
Margaret was the president of the women's organization at our church, the Relief Society. Margaret and husband, Rick, had five children. They lived in a small home and worked harder than any family I know.
Rick worked full time and Margaret and the kids took on any job they could, like cleaning a dentist office or parking lot in the early morning before school.
Working by Margaret's side, I could see firsthand, how she taught her children.
No matter what Margaret prepared for dinner, it was always deliverable, whether it was mac and cheese or meat loaf. When Margaret heard a family was in need, she took their meal to the needy family.
Then Margaret would prepare peanut butter and jelly for her children.
Today, Margaret's kids are all married and have their own children. I can bet that peanut butter and jelly warms their hearts.
In 1985, Nancy Gavin wrote her story, my favorite Christmas story. Nancy's husband Mike hated Christmas.
One year, Nancy decided to skip the shirts and ties, and look for ways to bless others. Nancy's inspiration came when her son's wrestling team played a non league inner city church team, who had less than adequate uniforms, shoes, and gear.
The next day, Nancy purchased the uniforms and gear for the needy team and sent it to them, anonymously. Afterward, Nancy wrote her act of service, placed it in a white envelope, and pinned it on their Christmas tree.
Each year, Nancy found other ways to serve others. One year, she sent children with disabilities, to a hockey game. Another year, she delivered gifts to two elderly brothers whose home had burned down.
Nancy would handwrite her service, tuck it in a white envelope, and place it on their Christmas tree. The envelope became the highlight of Christmas, where their children ignored their own gifts, to read what was in the envelope. These are Nancy's words.
"You see, we lost Mike last year to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown, and someday will expand even further, with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation, watching as their fathers take down the envelope.
Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us."
Our Savior Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. The miracle of His birth, and life, will bless our lives, as we serve, as He did. I testify, in His Holy Name, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.