My most memorable childhood Christmas was the time I set up a Christmas Tree at my school. It beats out my first stereo (12 years old), the used luggage (18 years old), and even the time I ate an entire box of "Chicken-in-a-Bisket" crackers and a whole bottle of Martinelli's and proceeded to puke for 2 days (have mercy).
In the 4th grade, I got dumped big-time by all the "popular" girls. They took me aside on the playground and told me they didn't want to be my friend anymore. The autumn chill went straight to my bones. "What's wrong with me?" was my first thought.
I took the next recess or two to take inventory of my brief and seemingly pointless existence. Thankfully, there were some awesome individuals sitting on the hill with me helping me process life. My habit of making lemonade out of lemons started right then and there with my new squad; Adam, Aaron, Damon and Evan. In my "Adult shoes" I look back on those boys and marvel at how in-tune and selfless they were. How much they didn't need to give a dang, but choose to anyway.
I felt broken. I thought all broken people went to the special needs class. They seemed to be the happy ones anyway. So at recess the next week, I went down to the Special Education room and asked if they needed any help. Did they ever!? There were toys to be tidied, kids to be read with, copies to be made and decorations to put up. There were a couple of frazzled teachers that legitamately looked at me like I was a GodSend. The recess after that, the 'Boy Squad' was trying to figure out where the broken girl went. They found me criss-cross applesauce playing on a drum with Madison and Kylie, autistic twins, dancing nearby. Well, it took a nano-second for Candance, a down-syndrome kindergartner, to claim the boys as her own.
Then a super interesting thing happened. Slowly those girls who hated me so vehemently the week before came to help out in the classroom. One by one they showed up, until our entire class had taken over the Special Ed room to help out at recess. Eventually a schedule was made so that we didn't overwhelm the kiddos. In teams, we took turns playing with these amazing humans. It was a game changer for me.
Christmas time came. Relationships had healed a bunch. I wanted to do something special for my friends who had helped me remember how to be happy for reals. A Christmas Tree! I would set up a Christmas Tree for them! I literally ran to the principal to ask him if I could do it. I was so excited. He said that would be great! He'd leave the door open for my mom, Mel, Mar and Kristina (my BFF's to this day) to make a miracle happen. He said as long as we sprayed the tree with Fire Retardant (my mind was scratching itself with the 4th grade version of WTF)it would be fine. That night, we snuck in like a bunch of clumsy elves. We sprayed"fire retardant" on the tree in question (still WTF) then decorated the Buh-jeebies out of this tree. There were lights and homemade ornaments galore.
None of us slept that night. We were so excited to get to school early the next day and see the look on the kid's faces. We arrived 40 minutes early, turned on the tree lights, turned off the lights in the room and hunkered down.
Hand to heaven America, I have never felt so warm. Those children walked into their classroom and their eyes lit up. They jumped, clapped, yelled, twirled and sang. I loved the honesty of their reaction. A light burned white hot inside of me. Like I had touched an angel and it allowed me to borrow some of it's light for the day.
As an adult, I can look back and see all sorts of mishaps. Maybe some of them weren't Christian? Maybe we caused too much disruption in their schedule or enviroment? Maybe, Maybe, Maybe?
But I learned something profound, so social norms be danged. When I serve someone else, I end up being the one who is changed for the better. Every. Single. Time.