Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Muffins and the True Meaning of Christmas

No one knows the exhaustion of the holidays more than a teacher in the days leading up to winter break (especially teachers of smaller children).

No one understands the anticipation and angst of Santa's arrival more than a Kindergarten teacher on Dec. 19.

No one can imagine the crazed excitement of the Christmas countdown more than teachers.

Contrary to the negatives, you can't possibly know the joy of watching those same children celebrate with a popsicle for breakfast while wearing their pajamas on jammie day, that last day before break. 

You can't comprehend the ecstatic nature of a classroom Christmas party in which they open presents and goodie bags from friends. 

No one can commiserate with the hugs and giggles of 25 littles when they come into the classroom and see the room decorated with lights and ornaments for the first time.

In the last few days, us teachers have smiled through our weary, exhausted days, keeping the Christmas spirit alive in our classrooms.  We all know that very little academic learning has been going on in those days leading up to break, but there has been learning taking place nonetheless.  In the last five days, we have taught the value of kindness and giving, caring for one another and sharing memories.

In those frazzled days of wrapping, finishing up handmade, glittered and painted projects created by little hands, we have toiled away at making sure that every boy and girl in our class has a nice holiday, even if we have to do it ourselves. 

We have stuffed gift bags, ordered books and written out Christmas cards to each and every one of our students.  We love them as our own children.  We care deeply about them and want to make sure that this holiday is magical and memorable for them.

In the last week, we have spent our own time and money preparing special treats, activities and special presents for those littles that make us cringe and smile all the same every day.

In the name of love and Christmas spirit, we have fretted and worried about the ones who won't have much of a Christmas once they leave school.  And for them, we go out of our way to make sure that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in the classroom.

We carefully decorate the room with lights and ornaments, maybe even a tree.  We hang every Christmas card that is created with markers, glitter, and crayon. 

We smile as we open the small treasures and gifts they proudly offer to us as they march through our classroom doors.  We quickly scratch out a thank you card for each treasured gift during our plan periods, even the one for the package of half-used post-it notes.  We do this because each one of those gifts was given with love, thoughtfulness and pride, even the used post-it notes. 

All of this Christmas spirit reminded me yesterday of a sweet little girl I had a few years ago, "Jazzy".  She was a sweet little girl with fiery red hair and a gentle disposition.  She was such a happy little girl and a good friend to many kids in my class.  She came from a family that struggled to make ends meet.  Although they didn't have a lot of money, she was loved and taken care of by her mom and dad. 

I will never forget the last day before winter break when she came waltzing in the classroom that morning proudly carrying a wrapped up package that she presented to me with a huge smile on her face.  It was obvious that she had wrapped the gift herself by the too-much tape stuck on all the sides. 

She gleamed ear to ear as she watched me open the gift.  I smiled and complimented the wrap job, "Oh, this is beautiful!  Did you wrap this yourself?"  She nodded and her eyes sparkled with pure delight and pride.

As I opened the gift, I nearly burst into tears (as I do now just thinking of it.)  She had wrapped up two packages of muffin mix for me.  As I gushed over how nice of a gift it was, she said, "I thought you could maybe make muffins for your kids on Christmas morning."

As I looked at her I was overwhelmed with the feeling that these two packages of muffin mix may have been destined for her own Christmas breakfast, but instead she chose to give them to me.  I hugged her and fought back the tears.  I thanked her over and over and repeated how excited I was to make those muffins on Christmas morning. 

It was obvious that even though she was not being raised in a household of money and material fortunes, she was being raised to understand the importance of taking care of one another.  She was learning the value of thoughtfulness and kindness. 

And quite honestly, isn't that more important than gift cards and coffee mugs?

So, as I made the Christmas muffins on Christmas morning, my own kids asked where the muffins came from and I told them the story.  They were impressed with the little girl's giving and thoughtfulness.  I remember Luci saying, "That was nice.  She got us a gift and she doesn't even know us."

I responded, "That's the true meaning of the spirit of Christmas."

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