My early Christmas memories consist of an overflowing Christmas tree with presents that never seemed to end. As as child, I thought that was normal. I lived with the belief that every voice in the world was hoarse from saying thank you after each gift had been torn open. I assumed every house was just like mine and every child was lost in a sea of wrapping paper, ribbons and tags after the last gift had been opened.
But that mound of brightly decorated paper blinded me from the reality I would come to know as I got older. My Christmas was not the normal image of the holiday celebration. The large roasted turkey and all the accompanying dishes that adorned our table did not magically appear in every other house on Christmas day. When I learned that fact, my happiness was changed.
I had been oblivious to reality until I was in my last years of public school. I honestly don’t even remember if there were food and toy drives when I was that age. I just recall the anticipation of Christmas morning, not even realizing that there were kids I went to school with that may not see anything under their tree on December 25th.
Over the last three years, the Christmas tree that has become most important to me is the one in our hotel lobby. It has become a temporary home for gifts that we have collected or purchased with the generous donations of our many supporters. This tree overflows, much like the one I remember from my youth, but it will bring smiles to many more kids than just the two children who stumbled upon our family Christmas tree on that much-anticipated morning every year.
This tree holds the hope that so many more children will be able to open a gift on Christmas morning. This tree embodies the true essence of Christmas because the gifts that lay under its branches come from people who will not get the gift of seeing a child’s smile as they open their presents on Christmas day. This tree truly represents the spirit of giving.
I can only hope that my future Christmas celebrations will embody the generosity I have seen over the last three years. And my Christmas wish is that everyone takes a moment to remember those less fortunate, especially during the holidays. The season is about giving to everyone…..not just the ones on your list.