The "true spirit" of Christmas can only be defined by each person as it relates to them and the people they are closely connected with.
I grew up with the biblical story of Christmas. Mary and Joseph, the journey of three wise men and the powerful gift in the birth of Jesus. My father would read the story to us Christmas Eve and I would picture the scene in my mind. I would imagine animals that were staring at this new life in awe and parents that beamed with appreciation. The gifts of the magi, gold, frankincense and myrrh that were offered as tokens would fill my head with images of richness and warmth. I think what this story motivated me to believe wholeheartedly, was the diversity of gifts one can give, and the true meaning of gift giving. We can give possessions, our time and resources, or ultimately who we are.
I know a man in our community who gives of himself. He shares his inner gift. I believe this is the most selfless gift of all.
Stephen Kirkpatrick, with his recognizable smile and contagious giggle reminded me just how impactful giving our own gifts can be. As a kind and considerate man, Stephen has years of history in the area and grew up on a farm just outside of mount forest where he contributed to barn chores and family life. He cherishes his relationships with his siblings deeply and feels connected to his community. If you know Stephen than you will agree his authenticity with gratitude towards others is inspiring. The popular "Random Acts of Kindness" was fashioned after Stephens leadership I'm sure as he seizes everyday opportunities in our community to make sure that people feel appreciated.
Stephen possesses the gift of GIVING. He gives gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness freely without expectations. Being genuinely "thanked" for what each of us has to offer others has become a lost art. Each citizen of our small town gives to others in ways that would benefit from being recognized and encouraged. Stephen not only sees when others are giving of themselves but it becomes his mission to share appreciation, recognition and admiration.
When you receive an authentic sentiment of gratitude it is empowering. You feel your contribution was helpful and acknowledged.
It is with the partnership of gifts, community and Christmas that this story comes to life and the lesson for me significant.
This past summer, in an attempt to find the ultimate treasure, Stephen and I attended the annual church garage sale in Kenilworth. Stephens passion and excitement for the perfect gem had me enjoying his company and eager to see what he might uncover. He saw his greatest treasure almost immediately after getting out of the car and knew he had to have it. Leaning against the shed faded by time and experience was a life size depiction of the birth of Christ. The nativity set included close to 10 characters cut from wood, that shared the story of Christmas The paint weathered by their message and many winters was peeling off and in desperate need of renewal and restoration. As a fan of Christmas and all things seasonal, Stephen knew he had to have this gathering of people and their Christmas message on his lawn. I could sense his ally with the theme of giving and connection with this art piece and its meaning. The church kindly offered to deliver the nativity set for free.
Once in Stephens garage our discussions focused on how to restore this scene with care and accuracy. I am not a strong artist, so I knew painting faces and fine details would be tricky. We reached out to our community in an attempt to find people who would be willing to partner with us on this very important project.
Stephen reached out to Caroline Beren. A partnership was started. Caroline and Stephen have shared a relationship for many years and a reciprocal respect for one another. As Founder of "Friendship Group", a Christian based community group that meets weekly to learn about the gospel and passionate leader in our community, Caroline had a myriad of ideas and resources to help with Stephens project.
The two got started right away with huge participation from the group. Gary Stopps, Debra Kalb and the many community members that attend Friendship Group contributed to the sanding, painting and refurbishing of this special nativity set.
The diversity of gift giving was certainly highlighted during this collaborative effort. People donated materials of paint and wood, skills and talents around sanding and painting and offers of support and encouragement when the hours invested got long.
With Stephens gift of giving gratitude and thanks, I don't doubt that everyone involved will have felt their contributions were meaningful and appreciated.
The project was successfully completed and the nativity set has been restored to its original state with bright colours, fine details and a clear gift giving message. It sits out front of Stephens home displaying its original message of gift giving and its new story of community collaboration.
This season whatever your "true spirit " of Christmas may be, take a moment to wrap up your most precious gift and genuinely give it to someone. It will be appreciated.