What we did: Meaningful holiday season

Most memorable

I began to participate in a wonderful tradition as a single young adult that has carried me through every holiday season — "Sub for Santa" or substituting as Santa for needy families. For me, it started at BYU in a singles ward with one family (still dear friends more than 10 years later) and this year will include children in a hospital and many families who wouldn't otherwise be able to have "Santa" visit their homes. I find out about the families through community resources like elementary school teachers, the United Way, shelters and usually through my ward also. One year, a migrant family from Mexico with a badly injured husband was recommended to me since I am bilingual. My roommate and I talked about it and decided to take a simple Christmas to them in the hospital; then we invited the visiting family members to stay in our apartment through the holidays. We had the most memorable Christmas season ever!

One thing to remember is that you don't have to have a lot of money to do this. I always organize/find the recipients. Then I let ward members, extended family, school classes and teachers know about the recipients' needs. Family home evening groups, relatives, youth in the ward can help wrap all the presents and bag up gifts for each family or organization that you will visit. Put on holiday music, have yummy snacks and enjoy being Santa's helpers. I don't even remember feeling lonely amidst all the hustle and bustle of these activities, just the warmest sense of reaching out to our Heavenly Father's children. — Robyn Buckwalter, Manchester, N.H.

Reflect upon blessings

While attending a student ward, my visiting teaching companion suggested hosting a Christmas dinner for the sisters we taught. During clean-up, Jill and I began talking about what we hoped to accomplish in life. What began that year as a simple conversation has continued for over 15 years. We now live in separate cities and remain unmarried, but I joyfully look forward to getting together once a year during the Christmas season to set goals and report on the activities of the year.

We each write on a card what we hope to accomplish during the coming year, choosing our own categories, such as a study goal, a health goal, an activity goal, etc. It is amazing how much this annual "reporting-in" has helped motivate me. I joyfully look forward to the Christmas season each year as a wonderful time to reflect upon the many blessings I have received, especially the blessings of life and agency. — Susan Jackson, Ogden, Utah

Feeling of the heart

On Jan. 10, 2000, I will be 84 years old. I am single and childless. To me Christmas is a feeling as well as a national holiday. This feeling may come anytime after Thanksgiving, even as late as Christmas Eve. It is unique to the season. It is a feeling of euphoria, of excitement and anticipation, of high energy and purposeful activity, of increased awareness and affection for others, and reverence for the Savior and His good earth.

I enjoy the traditions of the season: Handel's "Messiah" and Dicken's "A Christmas Carol," the spiritual as well as the secular. I am intrigued by mysterious gifts, comforted by cards, letters and visits, and delighted by unexpected carols and bells in the night. — Beula Reba (Becky) Pratt, Fremont, Calif.

Reach out

The Christmas season is one that fills my heart with additional love for my fellow man. The best way that I have found to make it even more meaningful is to "do a good turn daily" all through the month of December. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate, went about doing good.

Send a "miss you" note with a Christmas card to someone not seen in a while. A "thank you" card can be sent to a teacher who has touched your life. Put a little treat on someone's desk at work without them seeing you. Complimenting someone on their actions can help them be aware of the good they are doing. A hug at Church can lift another's spirit. Reach out to strangers and let them know that they are welcome. — Sharlie Carter, Louisville, Ky.

Be grateful

The founder of joy and inner peace is the One whose birth we celebrate. Ironically, we forget He gave us everything we have, concentrating selfishly on what we don't have, while it is yet His celebration. As a single mother of grown children, only the sting of loneliness supersedes the anguish of financial hardship. I successfully feel real joy when, exercising a great degree of discipline, I resist the urge to feel sorry for myself, completely turning, as if almost physically, my thoughts into gratitude for the many blessings I do have.

It is so corrosive to judge yourself or others by what you do or don't have. Learn to live cheerfully within your limitations. Smile all the time. Say hi to everyone. Be willing to give in any way you are able and unselfishly be available to do so. The Lord will grant you opportunities to serve, and in doing so the "real joy" of the season will begin to penetrate your soul. — Judy M. Jones, Chubbuck, Idaho

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