A 6-ft tall Elmo complete with a santa hat and jingle bells around his ankles, dozens of hotdogs and gloppily decorated sugar cookies consumed at 10am, and of course- the man himself- Santa all made for an exciting saturday. Recently I participated in a “free pictures with santa” community event that my church Velocity hosted. Each month, our church hosts an event for kids and families in the community to let them know that we care about them and the city. I hadn’t planned on staying- I came with Reuben just to drop off the 2 dozen sugar cookies I had baked for the event and then head home. I have no idea why I didn’t think I’d want to stay for such an incredible event.
I ended up jumping in to help out as a greeter- one of my favorite jobs; making people feel welcome and telling them what to do :). Smiles spread across the faces of families as they entered the room with tables set up to decorate Christmas cookies, t.v.’s set up with charlie brown Christmas playing as people waited in line and kids either excitedly scrambling onto santa’s lap or recoiling in terror at the idea of getting near him. As I looked around the room I was reminded of a few things; some of the simplest gestures of kindness can speak measures. Velocity hosted the event because for many families who are scraping to make ends meet, a trip to the mall to get a picture with Santa is an expense that isn’t likely to make it into the essentials. Simple things like making people feel welcomed, providing a place to enjoy some holiday festivities and a chance for kids and families to have fun together perhaps helped some people begin ask if the church can actually be a fun place that cares about the things that they care about.
Seeing people from our church serve as well was equally as inspiring. Whether they were at the cookie decorating tables helping to pass bowls of sprinkles to kids and talking with their parents, complimenting parents on how cute their kids looked in the santa pictures or running around playing to part of Elmo reminded me of what the church can be when it’s doing what it’s meant to do; care for people outside of the church. While getting a photo with Santa may have not provided any life epiphanies for the kids or their parents, perhaps Santa saved people’s ideas of what the church is all about.