There’s something about Christmas that makes me a little more sentimental and a little more appreciative of acts of kindness. Last Friday I was blown away by a Christmas party that the ECU Student Athlete Association gave to our children at Building Hope. There were a few moments that took my breath away and put tears in my eyes.
The first happened right off the bat. We walked in with 30 elementary children to the athletes standing in a semi-circle and cheering as loudly as possible for our students. At first our students didn’t know what to think, but as the applause continued, they begin to smile and stand a little taller. As I stood, taking it all in, it occurred to me that we cheer for people a lot. However, most of that cheering takes place for people who are on stage, on a field, or in a public arena. As parents, co-workers, husbands, wives, and friends, do we really cheer for people. Do we ever give people applause just for who they are and not for what they can do? While watching the transformation from insecure to confident, hardened to soft, and timid to bold, I wondered if anyone had ever really cheered for these kids before – and the first tears came to my eyes.
The second happened about halfway through the party. The kids had been to different stations and had a ball playing games and making crafts. They came back together for a LARGE game of musical chairs. After sorting through the logistics of the number of chairs and the correct direction to walk, they started the music. I fully expected a lively, upbeat song (and more than likely so did they), but what was on the playlist was, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” As the simplistic melody rang out, I realized that Christmas is hard for many people for a number of reasons. But here, on ECU’s campus, a group of athletes took their time to create a memory for our kids that will last a lifetime. The unselfishness of it all, from a group of 20 year old “kids,” caught me by surprise – and for the second time, tears came to my eyes.
We were wrapping up the evening with pizza, and there was just one thing left to do…open presents. This is often tricky. We really try so hard to teach the students to be appreciative and thankful, even if you don’t get something that you like (or if you open a girl present and you are a boy). The excitement in the room began to build as the athletes passed out not one, but two presents to each child.