On Sunday, December 22, The Reverend Gena Andersen led a discussion in Wesley Hall asking members of the congregation to share their “Christmas Inside Out” experiences. The narrative packages where wrapped in different colors and topped with unique bows, but the ribbon on each of them was tied in a similar fashion−and connected each act of kindness to the faithful who had gathered to receive the hope and inspiration held in each box.
Reverend Anderson spoke first, sharing the experience that she and her children had, baking cookies, and delivering them to First Responders. When they arrived a day ahead of schedule, the blessing was twofold, when offered the added treat of climbing into a fire engine. The joy of giving reciprocated by the responder’s actions, created a lasting memory for everyone involved.
Church member Jennifer Bond continued the discussion, sharing the joint project of her children, inspired by the elder’s confirmation class, where each member received five dollars to help someone less fortunate. They enthusiastically took up the task, realizing that by doubling their efforts, they could make a larger impact. For a family project, Jennifer created her own concept, called “Blessing Bags,” by taking gallon Ziploc bags and filling them with gum, tissues, granola bars and other small gifts. Other families and close friends were to distribute them to the needy on Sunday night. She looks forward to continuing the tradition.
Others spoke of small acts of kindness; the opportunities presented in each day that the Inside Out concept had brought to a new level of awareness. Observing an elderly man in the Post Office told by a clerk that he could not reinforce the box he was shipping with additional, much needed tape, a member jumped to action and bought a roll of tape. When the man said, “I can’t take this from you,” the simple response was, “Just be sure to share it with any others who may need it in this long line.” Madeline and Riley Parker bought ten dollars’ worth of donuts for First Responders and ran into two other church members delivering the same treats.
Director of Youth Ministries Casey Langley explained that Confirmation Classes received 5-dollar envelopes on December 1 with instructions to pray over them with the consideration, “What would God do?” She stressed that it was “between them and God,” with no requirement to report their actions. In each of them, she observed poignant and unique actions. One young woman bought a blouse for young women in need and another purchased Starbucks coffee for the person in line behind them. They summed up their experiences by saying, “Inside Out has rocked for us!”
Grandmother’s Una Bailey and Gaye Fuller shared stories that embody Isaiah ll:6, “A little child shall lead them.” Una, whose grandchildren range from 4-14, gathered around a table and received a card containing money, which they considered a lovely gift. She then explained that the gift was for passing along to someone less fortunate. She marveled at the thoughtfulness and creativity that each child brought to the project. Gaye has seven grandchildren. She also gave them money to share with those in need. Her youngest, adopted from an orphanage in Poland, has lost both of his legs and one arm, but he did not hesitate when he heard of a Mexican orphanage, via the church, where children were hungry. He explained how he knew where to place his contribution. “I was lucky. I was in an orphanage that had enough food.”
Christmas Inside Out proved to be the catalyst for many to do what they had never imagined they would; the things they think of frequently, but never follow with action. A young homeless man spoke movingly about someone allowing him to stay in his house for the night. “He treated me like a king and told me not to feel guilty. Most people would never do that.”
So where do we go from here?
Most of us keep our gifts (wrapped in good intentions) in our hearts, but as these stories reveal, it is in untying the ribbon of intent and reaching out to others that we discover an immeasurable and inspiring gift of faith — for both giver and receiver.