Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent Calendar--Charitable or Volunteer Work

I don't remember any big events of doing charitable or volunteer work when I was growing up.  I know I was encouraged to volunteer in many little ways as an ongoing way of life throughout the year.  Every month we would skip two meals and then we would donate the money that would have been spent on the food for those two meals to our church where it would be used for people who were lacking or in need.  We might take food to a family where there was an illness or death.  I remember babysitting without pay.  Our family raised chickens and sold their eggs.  One elderly lady we would give a dozen cracked eggs to without taking any payment for them.  She was very appreciative and every so often she would bake a loaf of banana bread to say thank you.                                     
Perhaps I really didn't know what my parents did because they didn't talk about it openly.As an adult I have had more experiences.   We try to take the opportunity to help out in many small every day ways.  But I have been involved in bigger projects.  For a couple of winters some of the ladies at our church have gotten together and made hats, mittens, scarves and lapblankets for the center in our town that helps those in need.  Other years we have put together hygiene kits, first aid kits, newborn kits, and school kits that can be sent to places in the world that need them.  One year with a group of other single parents and their children we picked a family that was in real need and we gathered gifts together for them.  We parked down the street and around the corner from their house.  We hurriedly placed the gifts on their porch then ran to hide behind bushes and trees while one designated person rang the doorbell.  What a wonderful warm feeling it was to see the surprised faces as they found these unexpected gifts on their front porch.
It doesn't take a big project to make a difference.  Little things can add up.  Helping an organized group can be a good way to volunteer.  Donating food or a toy can be another way to help.  Donating money can help.  Just having the desire to help can make a big difference.
As I think about my ancestors I do not know a lot about what they did to help others.  I'm sure they did little things to help others.  Most of my ancestors were pioneers who settled Utah.  They had to help each other in order to survive there.  My father's great grandfather brought his family across the plains in the Wiley handcart company that was overcome by snow and cold and where many died.  I know they received help from men who risked their lives to travel in the snow to rescue them.  All members of his family survived.  The Christmas that followed must have been a special one for them as families in Salt Lake City took in the survivors of the handcart companies and helped them through that winter.  I'm sure they in turn helped others as they helped build settlements in Utah and Arizona.  It would be wonderful to hear their stories especially of what Christmas was like and how they helped others and how they were helped.
To me Christmas is the celebration of our Savior's birth.  He was the real example of love and charity.  Helping others is truly the way to celebrate Christmas. 

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