Dana was one of the first moms to reach out to me in Orlando (when we moved earlier this year). I was blown away once I realized she worked full-time, raised two girls intentionally AND ran her own website on the side. Whoah. Her site, ShopEatDo.com, is filled with helpful suggestions for those of us in the Orlando area looking for things to do with our families. More than all her accomplishments, our family has been loved by hers and we are grateful. Read below how they are sharing more kindness through the city with Light ‘Em Up ideas this Christmas.
You should know something about me. I am just like you. Wife of my college sweetheart. Mother of two girls (ages 7 & 4) who have brought more joy to our lives than we could ever imagine. A full time working consultant who juggles large corporate clients, lunch meetings and “MMEs” (mandatory mommy events) on one Outlook calendar. Lover of evenings with good friends, good red wine, and lots of laughter. Also a lover of good food…which has led to my recent commitment to boot camp.
But beyond all of that at my core, I am a giver. I love nothing more than giving to others; making someone’s day; giving them a reason to smile; surprising someone and witnessing their pure joy. So when Courtney introduced me to Light ‘Em Up a few months ago over coffee I barely let her get the explanation totally out before I was fully committed.
Before children I don’t think I completely realized the total commercialization of Christmas. But since then, the reality of the secular forces on all of us, but especially our children, has hit me front and center. Sure, we visit Santa, browse an occasional catalogue that mysteriously appears in the mailbox, and enjoy parties with friends, but in our home we focus more on our Advent calendar and the celebration of Jesus’ birth. That also means focusing on the spirit of the season. Finding ways to show our children that giving to others is more important than receiving and reminding them to “give thanks in all circumstances” as Thessalonians 5:16 reminds us. In the past few years we have donated food to an angel tree in our grocery store, generously given to the person diligently ringing the bell, and served food to those in need, just to name a few. We even adopt a family in need each year and personally deliver a tree, decorations, food for Christmas dinner, and gifts for all. But I often wonder if my precious 7 and 4 year old really gets it? Do they realize how incredibly blessed they are? Most adults have a hard time grasping that concept so likely not, but every once in awhile they show me they are really getting it. And last week our first “Light ‘Em Up” experience was one of those days!
We sat down one evening and planned our Light ‘Em Up strategy. The girls could not have been more excited once I told them what we were going to do this year. We selected the ideas we liked best and placed them in a jar. I am definitely not “crafty mom” so I don’t have a picture of a cute jar to insert here (sorry!). But I hope you realize that if I can do it…you can too. The beauty of “Light ‘Em Up” is that there is no expectation of perfection. You don’t get a gold star for the cutest execution, or the most executions. No stress here.
The girls wanted to start with thanking our garbage men one morning. It might have something to do with my 4 year old’s obsession with being a garbage “lady” (she even got a garbage truck for Christmas last year!) but whatever the motivation I agreed it was a good place to start.
Our garbage men usually arrive between 6:30-7:30am. Sometimes their rumbling truck wakes me and other times we follow them out of the alley as we leave for school. We had to be prepared to “Light ‘Em Up” because no telling when they would arrive. The girls were up earlier than usual, dressed and ready with thank you cards, donughts, and orange juice in hand. 6:30am turned into 6:45am, which turned into 7:00am with no sign of our garbage men. I was beginning to get concerned as we approached 7:30 because we had to leave for school and this was not an ideal way to kick off our effort. But at 7:31am we heard the rumble and we all scrambled to the alley to greet them.
I don’t know which was more fun to witness the excited faces of our girls or the look of surprise, confusion and appreciation on the faces of the garbage men.
Our 4 year old stretched as tall as she could to hand the driver the doughnuts (apparently liability prevents him from actually getting out of the truck?) and our 7 year old handed the two guys on the back of the truck the orange juice and cards.
“Thank you for all that you do for us,” they both said.
It was priceless! I had chills…total chills and I even caught my husband with the biggest smile on his face.
The garbage truck was not even fully out of the alley before they were asking, “When can we do that again?”
Our 7 year old turned to me and said, “Mom, did you see how happy they were?” “They pick up our garbage every week and I bet no one has ever thanked them,” she continued.
I think she got it.
Our ride home from school that day was filled with conversation and ideas about who else we could “Light Up”.
That evening someone knocked on our door during dinner. The 4 year old and I answered it and found the UPS man had delivered a box to us. She turned to me and said “Mom, the brown truck guy just brought us a box in the dark and he might have missed dinner…we should Light ‘Em up”!
She got it too!
Joy in my heart…pure joy!
I am so excited and really looking forward to seeing how our Christmas season unfolds with our “Light “Em Up” mission in mind every day!
Have you made a plan for your family?
What’s on your Light ‘Em Up List?