Christmas of 1993 was shaping up to be just like every other year with the traditional getting and giving of gifts. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I wanted something more, something different, to happen this season. I wanted to help others, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.
Then early in December, my Young Women president suggested a service idea that seemed to be what I was looking for. She asked us to pick a person we could secretly help to have a more enjoyable Christmas holiday. On December 13th, the 12th day before Christmas, we would start giving gifts to our person and keep giving them gifts until Christmas Day.
This idea got me excited. This would be the perfect opportunity to help someone I’d been thinking about. Monica was a foreign exchange student from Guatemala. She was in a couple of my classes and I didn’t know her very well—nobody did. I wanted to help her because she didn’t seem to have many friends since coming to Sturbridge, Massachusetts, in September.
After a lot of thought and preparation, the day arrived to start giving gifts. During lunch that day, I quickly sneaked into our world history class and left the first gift on her desk—twelve Christmas candies wrapped in Mickey Mouse Christmas wrapping paper. Also included with my gift was my trademark, a picture of a Christmas caroler that said, “From your secret caroler.”
Her face lit up when she saw the gift with her name on it. Everyone in the class, including Mr. Bond, watched as she opened the candy. In her broken English, she squealed, “Thank you, whoever you are!” Christmas was beginning to change for me.
The last day of school before Christmas vacation arrived. I had previously written her a note saying I would reveal myself to her that day. My last gift for her was an ornament box with a poem called “A Special Gift.” I also gave her a card with my picture inside.
After class she found me and thanked me again and again before taking me to her locker where she had a gift for her secret caroler. I’d forgotten about receiving gifts. I didn’t need anything because I felt so good just giving the gifts to her and seeing her joy. She told me I couldn’t open it until Christmas. I obediently waited until Christmas morning until I opened the box to find a beautiful headband and bracelets from Guatemala.
After Christmas we were talking about how our vacations went. Monica said that at the beginning of December she had been very lonely and wanted to go home. She was praying to find a friend here in the United States. She felt her prayers were answered when I became her friend.
From this Christmas project, I learned that by doing something nice for others, you can make a difference in their lives. But what surprised me was that it made a difference in my life, too. I’d always heard it’s better to give than receive, but until I tried it, it was just a saying.