Help me welcome guest blogger, Kendra Cameron-Jarvis:
"Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts ..."
The bus screeched to a halt jerking my body forward. I gazed out the window at a dilapidated house. An old stained couch sat solemnly on the sunken porch. Broken windows were covered in plastic and the yard was decorated with scattered trash.
I was a little afraid to be in this part of town. Even as a child I knew this was the bad part of Shreveport, Louisiana. The place where gangs sold drugs. The place where people didn't wake up. The place where children went hungry. The place where gunshots could be heard deep into the night.
My father drove the church bus. Every Sunday, in the early morning, as the sun began to slip silently into the sky, dad would crank up the old bus, the foul exhaust penetrating my nostrils, and he would go forth and minister.
Sitting in the old church bus that morning, I closed my eyes, blocking out the offensive view, waiting for my body to fall backwards into the seat as the bus moved forward again. I remember hearing her footsteps stop right in front of me.
She was wearing a faded dress that grazed her knees and her socks were discolored and worn. Her blonde hair was matted and dirty. There was room for one more on my seat and without a second thought, I scooted over. She introduced herself as Mary. She had several brothers and sisters and lived with both her mom and dad. She was poor. Yet, she had joy. A kind of joy that lit up her face.
Every Sunday the old church bus stopped by and picked her up for Sunday services. As Christmas approached, all the church bus kids excitedly talked about what they hoped to get. Mary didn't. She knew her parents couldn't afford any presents this year. They were having a difficult time putting food on the table.
One night,my parents led my sister and I into the garage and encouraged us to fix up our old, pink Barbie bikes and give them anonymously to Mary and her friend Virginia for Christmas. I still remember what joy I received that holiday season from cleaning the bike and preparing to give it away.
Christmas night, we loaded the two shiny bikes into the back of the station wagon and drove to Mary and Virgina's house. Dad lifted the bikes out of the car and carried them to Mary's front door, my sister and I excitedly following behind. Positioning the bikes just right, we knocked on the door and then ran as fast as we could to the car, jumped in and drove off. All the way home we talked about how much fun it was to give our bikes away.
The lesson my parents taught me that Christmas is still with me. It is a lesson I want to teach to my daughter and I hope she will teach it to her children.
It is better to give than to receive.
With Christmas approaching, there are many Mary's out there, struggling to survive.
Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.
How will you share the love of Christ this Christmas season?
Kendra Cameron Jarvis is a National Board Certified middle school educator, a writer, a mom, and founder of a non-profit ministry to provide resources for classrooms called Books for Classrooms. Kendra enjoys reading, writing for her own blog A Busy Womans Life, Incourage, Christian Devotions, Mom on a Mission and Devokids, freezer cooking, traveling with my husband, and spending summers being a Stay-At-Home mom to my three year old daughter, Anna Grace.