The gal standing next to me in this picture is Susan. For the record, I asked if she would pose by herself, and even threatened to crop me out, but she wanted nothing to do with that. She's not big on being in the spotlight, but given all that she does this time of year, I figured it's time to shed some light her way. =)
This is the season of the "Giving Tree". A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving the work begins....Susan will do her best to distribute the names and numbers of families of our church that are in need for folks that are part of our "team" to call and identify present ideas for the children. Each child will then have two anonymous "coded" ornaments on the Giving Tree, one for clothing, and one for a toy. It is then up to our church body to claim the ornaments, purchase the desired items, and return the gifts to Susan who stands faithfully next to the tree in between services on the first couple of weekends of December.
Today, the members of the "Giving Tree" team will gather and assemble all of the gifts and sort them per family. They'll then arrange to have the families pick up their presents - or deliver them to them. This is the first year in the five I've been a part of doing it that I won't be there during this time. It makes me very sad to know I'm missing it, but a while ago I was requested to take over Corey's (collegiate pastor) wife's pe classes this week (Monday and Tuesday) - and I felt like it was the route I should take.
Through this whole process, undoubtedly, Susan is given much more than her "fair share" of calls to make (because she doesn't want to burden anyone else), as well as additional shopping trips to gather what wasn't purchased [correctly], not to mention re-wrapping presents or distributing extra gift cards, or even answering questions from the congregation who contributes to the presents as her name and number are on each ornament.
Susan is a modern day Mrs. Santa Claus, and even though the amount of "burn out" has her recognizing at the end of each December that it will be her last year, I'm so thankful that again each fall she changes her mind. Because, she is the best at it, filled with so much compassion and discernment, so organized, and persistent in getting the job done right.
I feel blessed to be one of Mrs. Claus' elves in the minimal duties I take on for this project. (typing the individual kids' labels). I'd also like to point out the blessing of our congregation in their contributions. This year, there were about 60 families represented, with over 150 tags positioned on the tree. All but two were taken (and the two remaining were very easy to fill). In the monthly "communion donation", enough money was raised to give each of the families gift cards for groceries along with the children's presents. Can I hear a "Hallelujah"?! Praise the Lord...what an enormous undertaking, with huge eternal ramifications!
So, thank you, Susan - for all you do. And, as I continue to encourage the "Santa belief" in our youngest child, a part of me feels like it's not too much of a stretch to consider him being real - as the spirit that makes up the character of Santa is certainly embodied in Susan.