We pulled into the church parking lot thirty minutes before the doors were going to open to a line of people patiently standing outside in the frigid cold morning.   My five kids and I volunteered to help pass out Christmas dinners to the poor today.  We had over 200 families who had signed up for this gift with more on a waiting list if we had any meals leftover afterwards.

Our jobs were simple – directing people where to go, checking off names, handing over a ham and canned goods, placing a pie in a bag, and holding open the door as the gentle, kind people left the church with their hands laden with food.

It wasn’t long before my kids began to see and feel the gifts these people were imparting on them – some actual, physical gifts and others that simply touched their heart leaving them pondering what really matters in life.  All five of my kids did absolutely amazing today!  The big boys took ownership of the jobs they were assigned.  Gabriel was ever so content snuggled up to me in the baby carrier.  And Niki…my dear Niki…left her compassionate impact on yet another person.

First, my kids received crosses cross-stitched with yarn from one of the ladies coming in to receive a Christmas dinner.  The boys hung theirs on our tree as soon as they got home and Niki plans to keep hers in her car.  (Of which…her car died tonight.  We’ll investigate tomorrow what is actually wrong with it because it wasn’t the battery.)

Later, the boys were whispering into my ear and myself into theirs as we talked about their birth mom and how it’s people like her we were helping.

Towards the end of passing out the Christmas dinners today, Niki had taken her lunch break and came to talk to me.  She had several stories to share with me after I left the check-in point and went back to keep an eye on the boys as they passed out food.  You have to first understand, my daughter has a genuine gift.  She can walk into a room of complete and total strangers and often walks away with many new friendships – where I’m completely crippled, she flourishes.

Niki was at the check-in table this morning, verifying names and directing people back to the office where they picked up their meal from the rest of us.  A lady in her 50’s told Niki her name and then told Niki that she could take her friend off the list and give the meal to someone on the waiting list.  Niki asked her if her friend would be able to pick up her meal later and the lady replied, “No.”  In the words of six year old Niki when I asked her why she talked soooooo much during class at school, she told me sincerely, “Mom….everyone is so interesting.”  (I didn’t start homeschooling her until she was eight.)  Niki inquired further, “Is everything okay?”  The lady’s mood changed slightly and she responded to Niki, “No.  My friend passed away a week ago.”

Niki saw that this woman was in a lot of pain over this and asked her if she wanted to sit down and talk about it.  The woman looked at her and said, “Actually…I would, if you have a few minutes.”

So….the two of them sat and as the woman got up from the chair to leave, Niki realized that she was blessed far more today by visiting with this woman than she ever thought possible.

This lady’s friend, who passed away, lived across the hall from her in the apartment building.  She hadn’t heard from her friend in a few days and there was a weird smell coming from the apartment.  She called the manager of the building and asked them to inquire about it.  They didn’t.  She asked again.  Nothing.  Over a week goes by and not only does she not hear anything from her friend but the smell is getting worse.  Finally, she calls the police.  They were able to get into the apartment to find her friend had died.

If that wasn’t heart breaking enough, Niki also found out that this lady’s friend had a handicapped brother she was caring for in the same apartment.  His sister fed and took care of him.  When the police found him – it was too late.  He died shortly after arriving at the hospital from lack of food and water.

I don’t know if Niki realizes the gift she gave this woman or not.  Where no one else would listen to her, Niki took a moment out of her day to ask this woman to sit and talk with her as she listened.  I pray their conversation was peaceful and healing for both of them as Niki took the time to chat with this woman – because “she was interesting”.

These are the reasons why I bring my children to volunteer and help the poor.