I don't know about you, but it seems as if the true meaning and impact of Christmas seems to change and take shape differently each year. It must be a work of the spirit. As our team started to prepare to celebrate the presence of the peaceful King with both our faculty and staff this year, we were struck with a wonderful surprise at Saint Luke.
As I was just about to jump into my weekly pick-up basketball tradition at my parish, Saint Gertrude's on the North side, our longtime social studies teacher-leader, James Bratager, unexpectedly emailed me with a the message: "Have you checked your email yet? Did you see the gift we have received?". Intrigued, I went to my email and read the sweet news that all of our fifth grade students had received an anonymous cash donation of $50 each from a former teacher. The donation came with the charge that each studentmust find a worthwhile cause of need in which to pay forward. My immediate responsewas that such a gift must be a hoax, a ploy, or some sort of gimmick with other intentions. But as I did my research into the source, it was clear that the donation was completely legitimate, good, and well-intentioned. Our students, with their families, had been invited to define and determine who in their midst was poor and in need this winter and Christmas season, and reach out to help them.
As the project has evolved with the direction of their teachers, Mrs. Coduti and Ms. Lipo, it has been encouraging to see the care and creativity that our Bearcats have displayed in this project. Students have decided to "pay their donation forward" by giving to causes such as hospitals; the disabled, both domestically and abroad; and prevention of animal cruelty. Our students have reminded us all that it is an awareness of the other in need that enlivens and emboldens Christ's message this year. Our fifth graders, in essence, have reminded all of us that it is about the collective "we", not the "me" at the holidays.
So, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas with your families and friends, please know of my prayers for a joyful, peaceful, and absolutely grace-filled experience of "Emmanuel," God present and alive in your lives.