Offering Movable FeastsI provide a warm meal to a needy person, and the greatest joy of this gift is that it can be given year-round. Instead of adding a few coins to that ever clanging change cup whenever I can, I try to buy a meal instead. Something as simple as a sandwich has brought the brightest smiles to some of the saddest souls I’ve ever encountered.
I gather together as many widows in my community as I can find and host a big brunch for them to encourage and uplift them and help them remember they are not forgotten. Thankfully I’m not a widow myself, but I like to see how this get-together fosters networking among the ladies as they share experiences and deepen friendships.
Every Christmas my husband and I pack up the kids and head to a McDonald’s to order 100 cheeseburgers (which always throws the staff for a loop). Then we bring the cheeseburgers down to a local homeless shelter that’s always overcrowded and hand them out. The homeless in and around the shelter love it, and the smiles on their faces are a wonderful gift to us.
Courtney A.E. Messenbaugh
My husband and I like to give back to our family by hosting a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner, complete with table-creaking platters of hot and cold antipasto, seven types of fish, pasta aglio e olio (with garlic and oil), and enough desserts to put my dentist’s kids through college. Everyone brings something to the table, and the feast begins at 2 P.M. with the colorful antipasto platters. We take a break for 5 P.M. Christmas Eve Mass, then return to more food, a visit from Santa for the children, and dessert. We feel great saving the family tradition (with some additions of our own), keeping everyone (all 23 of us) together, and knowing that for that afternoon and evening our family truly has peace on earth.
Risa Lamia Baghdadi
Brooklyn, New York
My Rotary Club identifies families in our city that are in need of some help during the holidays. We work with our local grocery store to assemble turkey baskets with everything needed to feed a big family for the holiday―turkey, vegetables, stuffing, bread, dessert, etc.―and deliver them early on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. We do the same at Christmas and include gifts for the children so they have presents to open on Christmas morning. My husband and I have done this with our club for years, and we pair up with good friends of ours and take our daughters. It’s a way for us to teach them that we’re all here to help each other out―especially at a time when we’re so grateful for having such an amazing family and a network of friends, our health, jobs, and a roof over our heads.
My husband and I lead a juvenile-prison ministry. Every Christmas we invite friends, family, and our volunteers to bake Christmas goodies for the prison guards and staff. They work hard every day and even harder when guests like us are in their facility. They are often overlooked and unappreciated. We want to say “thank you” and “God bless you” for trying to make a difference in the lives of those who are America’s future. The response to this simple gesture is overwhelming, both from the recipients and the families who participate in giving. The preparation and baking time provide a great opportunity to teach our own children the value of family, the blessing of obedience (obeying the law), the need for discipline, and the joy of giving to others―things most incarcerated youths have missed. We tell the students in the prison what we’ve done for their guards, which sets an example of respecting and honoring authority―another life lesson often missed. Everyone involved is blessed.