Joy. It is one of the most beautiful feelings in existence. It’s an amplified version of happiness and this holiday season I have been blessed with the opportunity to deliver it alongside my family.
If Santa gave the reindeer a night off and decided to drive around the world instead of fly, I think he’d drive a Honda Odyssey. But, alas, air is his preferred method of travel. For the past few days, I have had the opportunity to drive the new Honda Odyssey … delivering some joy just like Santa minus the reindeer.
Throughout the year, my family and I make it a point to give back. But, during the holidays, we make even more of an effort to do so. The importance of service was instilled in me while growing up. God had blessed us and, in turn, it was important for us to bless others. I quickly learned that the greatest joy could be found in giving and it was something that I’ve desired to impart in my own children. My hope being that the world will be better because we lived and because we cared. So, this holiday season, we made a decision to support a few different organizations. Our mission statement taken from the words of Mother Theresa:
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
When our friends and family found out we were delivering joy, they were happy to join us. They came when they could and, when they couldn’t, they sent along donations. I felt so blessed to have this opportunity and figured: Why not use this as a chance to bless others. Of course, delivering joy isn’t the only thing we’ve done since driving the van. We’ve gone on some family adventures, too, but our joy caravan has been our fave.
Recently I shared some words on Instagram (I’ve been chronicling it there under the hashtag #deliveringjoy) that spoke to the fact that while I am all about family adventures and the making of memories, these memories (the ones that involve acts of service and generosity ) will be some of the greatest memories we make as a family.
My children will probably never forget the magic they felt when frolicking around Disneyland when they were little or how fun it was to open gifts on Christmas morning. But I also hope that they never forget the warm feeling they felt after volunteering for a special organization, the smiles on the faces of the people who accepted the donations that they brought, or simply knowing that another child will have gifts to open on Christmas because they gave out of their own hearts.
Fueled with love and a desire to spread a little bit of holiday cheer we piled into the van and got to work. Here’s how we used the Honda Odyssey to deliver joy this season!
How We Delivered Joy This Holiday Season 1 of 12
Making a difference in the lives of others embodies so much of what this beautiful season is all about. This is the month when we celebrate the greatest gift we've been given. And, in all of our celebrating, one can only hope that we will take a moment to spread some holiday cheer in the form of generosity. Find out how my family and I delivered a little joy this holiday season.
Collecting New and Gently Used Items and Shopping for Others 2 of 12
I drive a four-door sedan and my husband drives an SUV. Our family of four (five when we bring along our dog) fits just fine, but sometimes things can feel a little squishy, especially when the trunk is full and we have to put things inside the car. We always have the stroller and carrier with us, which reduces the amount of room we have. Not to mention there are always toys and books because our girls always want to bring something with them -- even if we are just going to the store for a quick trip.
There were new baby items that we had never used for Lola, now 15 months. The organization we were donating the items to helps young pregnant women and women with children who are considered "at risk." I looked up their wish-list online and realized that I had a lot of the items they needed just sitting in our storage closet. So I gathered them and before we left we put several bags of items into the car. Then we headed to Target and did some shopping.
The fun kind the kind that isn't for you but for someone else.
We picked out more items for the charity we had baby items for, some food for the food bank and some gifts to donate to children in need. I must admit I love watching my daughter walk the toy aisles looking for the perfect gift to give another child. After we loaded everything in the van there was still room, which meant we didn't have to stop and drop anything off at home before heading to our next destination.
Delivering Flowers and Smiles 3 of 12
Once we left Target I ran into Trader Joe's (while everyone happily waited in the van) and gathered several bunches of daisies. The year before, my friend and I took our children to a facility for seniors. We delivered flowers and spent some time visiting them. We had decided to do the same this year and were excited to have another good friend join us. To my delight, the flowers fit, too, and they didn't get squished either. The deep trunk allowed them to rest easily in the back and no petals were harmed on the way to the center.
At the Nursing Care Facility 4 of 12
Together we made our way through the nursing home delivering flowers. Our hearts were so touched by how happy the residents at the facility were to see us. They loved their flowers, but even more than that, they loved seeing our children. They were so grateful that we took the time to see them. It was really important for us to remind them that they had not been forgotten. So many of these people paved the way for the next generation. Their presence on this earth is still very important.
The thing about joy is that once you experience it you tend to want to share it and that's just what happened. One woman gave one of the children a brand new pair of socks she had been given. She insisted that they take them. Another one gave them two candy bars from her secret stash. So many of them kept thanking us. Our presence was a bright spot in their day. For some of them we will be their only visitors during the holiday season.
Delivering Some Essentials 5 of 12
Next up was a stop to St. Anne's. We brought several bags of goodies, ranging from baby clothing, nursing pads, school supplies and Play-Doh to a huge bag of books our friend and her daughters gave us to deliver. The staff who accepted our donations told us how happy everyone would be to receive the items we brought. They thanked us over and over again.
Despite the fact that we will never meet the young women and children who receive our items, it was this delivery that tugged on my heart strings the most. Having been a young single mother, I knew that I could have easily been in their position. I was fortunate to have a mother who stood by me and did everything she could to help me be able to raise my child and finish my college education. Not every mother is afforded that and I grateful for a place like St. Anne's, a place that is committed to ensuring that mothers and their babies have a chance to not just survive, but to thrive.
Delivering Great-Grandchildren 6 of 12
Before heading home for the day we stopped at my husband's grandmother's house. She doesn't live very far but, unfortunately, we don't make it to her house enough so she can see the girls. On this day we did. We surprised her as she was only expecting my husband and she was so happy. She showered them with hugs, kisses and snacks as grandmothers do. She was so excited! What better delivery than your great grandbabies?
Delivering Food 7 of 12
One morning before school, we got up early and drove over to the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission to deliver some nonperishables (some we bought over the weekend and some my friend purchased and gave to me to bring). Although we had been earlier in the year, we spent even more time talking with staff and learning about the Rescue Mission and the services they offered.
For example, we learned that the facility we visited has a small shelter that served families and allows the fathers to stay there with their families. There are a lot of shelters that are for men or women and children only so oftentimes families become separated during what I imagine is already such a difficult time. We also saw that there is such a huge need and not just for things either. Giving of time can add so much (joy) to someone's life.
At the Rescue Mission 8 of 12
In the past, my daughter expressed a desire to volunteer bu,t then I let life get in the way. However, this time I picked up volunteer paperwork and my family and some of our friends are going to make it a point to give of our time. On the way to school my daughter talked about how sad it made her feel to know what other children had to go through. It was a reminder of how blessed we really are. It reaffirmed my belief that while we don't necessarily have everything we want -- we have everything we need. It also solidified for her that she wants to do more to help.
Delivering Toys 9 of 12
Our most recent delivery was to the fire station. Our good friend is a firefighter and was happy for us to pay him a visit along with his family. A small group of us met at the fire station with toys in tow for their Spark of Love fundraiser. The captain came and greeted us and thanked our children for the toys. He even gave them a special treat! After we got a tour of the station, we learned more about fire fighters and safety and learned what would happen with the toys that had been donated.
Delivering Dessert 10 of 12
Here's a picture of our happy little ones with Firefighter White. While there we also delivered a little joy to the firefighters in the form of desserts. We wanted them to know how much we appreciate them!
Delivering Needs and a Few Wants 11 of 12
Up next we will be heading back to the store to do some shopping for our sponsored family from Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Like all of our deliveries, this delivery is a very special one for me as my brother was a patient there as a toddler. He had brain cancer and it was believed that he wouldn't survive. My family and I spent countless days at the hospital. I remember everyone always being so kind and caring. Fortunately my brother lived. He's now 28 years old!
The family we are sponsoring (with my mom's help) is a family of three. They commute regularly from another state to get treatment for their 1-year-old child who has cancer that affects her eyes. Their wish list was humbling. They wanted things like a gift card to get toiletries, a sweater for mom and a gas card for dad to help with the commuting. Their baby, like my baby loves Doc McStuffins and her requests were mostly needs and a couple of wants. Although we won't have the van when we deliver the items we will use it to pick some of them up. Which brings me to an important point...
The Giving Doesn’t End Here 12 of 12
The van was the vessel we used to help us spread joy this week, but it won't stop when the van is no longer in our possession. For us this has become a part of who we are. The seed was first planted in me when as a child a homeless man named Richard had been welcomed into our home and declared an extended part of our family.
There is a huge need in our community and, as parents, we have a chance to instill something miraculous in our children the desire to give. In doing that giving will become second nature. And they will do it using any vessel available to them, whether it's riding in the backseat of a minivan, pedaling on their bicycle or just tucking something special deep into their pocket and anxiously walking to give it to someone special.
Each time we’ve delivered joy I’ve asked my oldest daughter how she felt. It’s a feeling I want her to always remember, a feeling that over time only gets sweeter. My hope is that it will be a feeling she desires to experience throughout life and one day share with her own family. Because, the most magical thing about joy is that it spreads. It fills our hearts, our homes and our communities.
If you want to deliver some joy, it isn’t too late. Many organizations (and families) will gladly accept the gift of tangibles and/or the gift of time both now and beyond the holiday season.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore