Monday, November 28, 2011

Kris Kringle

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Guest Post from Father John, President & CEO of Catholic Charities DC

I’d like to share a family tradition with you, if you’ll give me five minutes.

I remember the evening very vividly. Frowning, I trudged slowly down the polished, hardwood stairs, tucking my red and black flannel shirt into my blue jeans.

Like any 10 year-old boy growing up in the 1950s (or today!), I really, really did not like having to do the dishes. It was the one chore I dreaded most.

But when I stepped into the kitchen, there was the whole pile of breakfast plates, juice glasses, spoons, forks, even mom and dad’s coffee cups, all sparkling clean and neatly stacked in the drain beside the sink!

“Yippee!” I shouted right out loud.

“Looks like someone’s Kris Kringle has been at work,” said my mom, smiling from behind her ironing board.

Of all my happy Christmas memories, my family’s Kris Kringle tradition might be my favorite. The little game my parents devised was simple, but the lesson we learned from it was quite profound.

Here’s how it worked: My 12 brothers and sisters and I would each draw the name of a family member from a hat. Then, we would look for opportunities to do something special for that person throughout the month of December, without the person knowing who was doing it. We were that person’s “Kris Kringle.”

And each time we did something good for someone, we got to put a piece of hay in the little manger of the crèche we kept on our mantelpiece. There was no competition – no big material reward for the child who put in the most pieces of hay. But the excitement of the game, and the warm feeling we got from making the Baby Jesus’s bed a little softer, gave our family holidays a deep and abiding happiness that made Christmas simply unforgettable.

What strikes me this year, my first as the head of Catholic Charities, is how many families, and especially children, will face hardship and heartache this Christmas. While other children are dreaming of special toys and flashy video games, fully one third of the youngsters in our area will be grateful just to have a decent meal and a safe place to sleep.

I’m told the Monday after Thanksgiving has come to be known as “Cyber Monday,” because so many people are checking names off of their Christmas lists by jumping on the online bargains of the day. Of course, I am hardly technically savvy enough to write this blog, let alone shop online. And, while I’m a little more old school in my holiday shopping traditions, I can appreciate a good thing. So, if you’re doing some shopping today, would you mind stopping by and giving one of your Christmas gifts early to our 2011 Christmas Fund Drive?

We’re trying to help an awful lot of people this year and we can only do that thanks to the generosity of many people like you. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Support our 2011 Christmas Fund Drive today!