December 2017Magazine Features

Making Christmas Memories

Christmas lights. Turkey dinners. Family. It was the Christmas season, but I felt lost. Patty and I had taken the year off for sick leave. We didn’t have the usual gifts to collect, parties to throw, or kettles to deal with. We didn’t have to carve out time to plan a worship service and construct a meaningful, and biblically–correct message, in the midst of everything else.

On the other hand, it was actually nice to leisurely enter the Christmas season, enjoy Thanksgiving, drive along while looking at Christmas lights, and get together with family.

For a Salvation Army officer, Christmas is a time of extreme busyness and distraction. It takes a Herculean effort to plan family time and to enjoy the holidays. For many of us, keeping our eyes on the prize of doing the work of the Lord during Christmas is the only way to make sense of the busyness of the season.

Patty and I wanted to have a “normal” life for our children, but serving the Lord through the Army makes this impossible. They sometimes get left behind. They don’t have a Christmas like other kids. Their parents are busy. These kids are at the corps when other children are at home making Christmas cookies.

It doesn’t seem fair.

The way we handled it was to include our two girls in every aspect of the Christmas season. They worked with gift collection. By their early teen years, they were running the gift collection effort. They were directing adult volunteers, working with clients, and doing the behind–the–scenes work that takes so much energy and mental exertion.

They rang bells, helped count money, and gathered supplies for the kettle season. They were with us every step of the way. It was truly a family effort. We were close–knit, frequently exhausted, but a family pulling in one direction. We had the same experiences, the same frustrations, and the same pleasures of the season. Working together at Christmas remains one of our family’s strongest memories.

Today as adults, our children still love the Christmas effort. They know that Christmas is more than family and friends, food and gifts, and lights and trees.

For example, seeing a mother cry as she receives gifts from us for her children makes up for all the craziness of the season. Witnessing this as a family is the best. It makes all our hard work worthwhile.

When we finally get to Christmas Day, being together is natural. We’ve been together the entire season so winding down together is easier. We understand each other. No one is left out. The week off between Christmas and New Year’s is appreciated by all.

by Captain Doug Richwine
Captains Doug and Patty Richwine are the corps officers at the Cincinnati West Side Corps.

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