The Christmas parade is over, but its gifts will continue.
The opportunities for giving will become less obvious, but they will continue.
Carmen Jones knows that. Carmen is 5.
A throng of classic cars, military machines and earthmovers plowed down Thomson’s main street barely three weeks ago, and the vehicles’ drivers and occupants showered candy down upon the spectators. Some babies slept through their first Christmas parade. Some children gathered more candy than they would need for that afternoon. One preteen self-consciously picked up the candy closest at hand, feigned indifference, and offered the candy to her parents.
Carmen, too, stooped beside Jackson Street and picked up the treats that had been cast from firetruck and Humvee. By afternoon’s end, she had collected a modest but sufficient supply of parade memories. While families all about her were sharing treats, Carmen heeded her family’s suggestion and offered one of her prizes to someone who had no candy whatsoever. She reached up toward the camera and held out a treat. And she smiled as she watched her candy disappear into a pocket.
By hour’s end, that piece of candy was in the hands of a spectator who had watched the parade alone. Carmen’s example and smile, though, remain there on Jackson Street.
Just last week, another sort of giving took place on Augusta Highway. Manna volunteers unloaded a trailer of canned food. Other volunteers checked the inventory of kitchen appliances to give to families forced from their homes. Other volunteers flattened plastic grocery bags so still other volunteers could fill bags for the hungry.
The work paused, though, when one of the supplies was exhausted. There was no more macaroni and cheese. Supervisors of the community food pantry found another strategy, and they will find more macaroni and cheese. They will lift it up with a smile and hand it to someone who is without that simple fare. Their work, though, will become more difficult as the season of giving fades into other pressing realities.
Carmen can’t be everywhere, but the rest of us can work together to keep simple gifts flowing. We can take that extra box of macaroni and cheese off the shelf. We can buy a box almost anywhere. We can just donate the 88-cents.
The gifts that seem to be falling like candy from a Christmas parade can become gifts once again.
When we take the new toaster and coffee maker from under the tree, we can pack up the older versions in the new boxes and drop them off at Manna.
While we’re checking shelves, we can find the pasta we just haven’t gotten around to using. We can find that small canned ham we’ve really been looking forward to cooking.
That turkey that was shoved to the back of the freezer when we went out of town need not go unused. Manna will find an oven for it.
Larger organizations will continue to support the mission of Manna and its allies in larger ways. The rest of us can support those organizations, and we can help in smaller ways.
The mitten trees soon will go into storage until November. The bell ringers will go back to their offices and their factories until another season. They will return with the parade. Once again, we will welcome those reminders of generosity’s peak season.
For now, we can put Carmen’s photo on our refrigerators as a reminder that we can put our surplus into others’ refrigerators. And we can try to see those gifts through the eyes of those who receive them.