Monday, December 7, 2015

Celebrating the Patron Saint of Giving

Once upon a time, when resources flowed heavier, my family used to coordinate two banquets a year for our church. One of those was in honor of the feast day of St. Nicholas, our church's patron saint, the patron saint of giving.

We actually own a costume for the great saint, one that we rented every year from the local costume shop, who sold it to us for pennies when it closed. The church also owns a simple version that's very old and bedraggled. Just about every man in our church had a rite of passage in wearing that costume and visiting the children. When we took over the banquet coordinations, we wanted to keep the mystery in the visit, so we imported a St. Nicholas from outside the church and procurred our own costume.

For each banquet, we spent an estimated $500 out of pocket where much of the food is served via potluck. The monies spent included the food we prepared, the stuff needed to make and freeze pirohis assembly-line style with the youth of the parish, the dressing of the tables, entertainment (although I was a  master at bartering this one) and so forth. I actually had full cabinets in my house dedicated to holding my banquet supplies.

Well, when our resources went away, we stopped hosting.

Then last year, I received a donation of the most beautiful ornmanents.

Back up. During the years we hosted and ran Sunday School and the youth group, people donated all kinds of stuff to us (because we had paid for nearly everything we did out of pocket, and that's too long of a story for here).

So this person, not knowing we had stopped, donated these beautiful golden ornamnets, stunning and light-catching. We toyed with the idea of hosting the banquet, but we just hadn't recovered sufficiently to do so.

You see, the once small and mightly parish is only a handful of elderly. Even our pastor will be eighty-three in January. As he is used to playing overseer, he often forgets what it's like to be the recipient of surprises. The youngest person is Daniel, at age 20. There are no children atttending our church, so no one thinks of actually having a St. Nicholas at our St. Nicholas banquet. Our banquets are glorfied weekly coffee sessions. Who knows how many of these people will still be with us next year?

And we do have a dollar store in walking distance of our townhome.

So we did it.

A very good friend and writing cohart very amicably agreed to be our St. Nicholas. We made sure he understood he was bringing magic to the elderly (who may not react to his presence), not children. He got it and did a wonderful job! :)

Rebekah and I spent Saturday running around buying stuff and making stuff: sausage, potatoes and kraut (me), fudge, poppyseed cake, and homemade dinner rolls (her).

We hung out at the dollar store buying things to dress the tables, from table coverings to centerpieces. We bought candy canes and gold foil wrapped chocolate coins for St. Nicholas to distribute with the ornaments.

On the way out of the dollar store, I saw a very small Christmas box. On impulse, I picked it up.

"One more item," I said to Rebekah, adding it to the rest in checkout.

She sighed, knowing me. "What's that for?"

"I'm going to fill it with gift cards and do a free raffle at the banquet."

"We're out of money!"

"I shall get donations."

Rebekah sighed again.

And I started texting people.

A few hours later, one friend responded. He dropped off three $10 IHOP gift cards in my mailbox. Thus fortified, I retexted. A friend had just donated; will you?

Timothy's boss at The Dancing Marlin donated a $25 gift card. Once more I texted and received a $25 Visa card.

We really wanted an extra $20 of something to give that box a $100 value instead of $80 , but it never happened. thankful for the $80!!!

Only one child was at the banquet, the grandchild of a parishioner. I passed out numbered strips of paper to every guest. The little girl didn't receive one because I told her she had the important job of calling out the winner.

She did, in her proudest outside voice.

The winner was our pastor.

And that little girl happily presented him with the box.

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