The greatest gift you'll ever receive isn't found under any tree. What is it? Well, that's up to you.
"Love," said my friend Katie O'Hara.
"Family," said my friend Sam Postrion.
Love's the secret ingredient found in every batch of homemade Christmas cookies - better still when shared with others. It's found in fixing supper for a lonely neighbor or reaching out to an elderly shut-in, clearing snow from someone's sidewalk, or just brushing snow from a family member's windsheild.
It's that special gift of self found in serving others: at a soup kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, placing presents beneath the Angel Tree, and more.
It's taking the time to tell someone else - -with or without words --that they matter, that they're special, that you care.
That's what Woodloch did this season with its 12 Days of Giving, including a record breaking weekend when 400 staff members, guests and friends assembed a whopping 656 hunger relief packages filled with Thanksgiving food items for families in need. With the generous support of Pocono ProFoods and the United Way, the charitable event was accomplished in 1 minute and 19 seconds - earning a place in the Guiness Book of World Records.
There were gift-filled shoeboxes collected for Operation Christmas Child to benefit children around the world, toys collected for the Salvation Army's Angel Tree - benefiting more than 100 families, gifts for Toys for Tots, hug deliveries at area shopping malls, and random gift giving to name a few. The latter involved the Woodloch crew handing out pre-paid Visa gift cards to random shoppers.
One heartfelt recipient sent back an email. Woodloch worker Sam Monaghan had spotted the man at a Scranton mall. He looked a little down, so she approached and handed him a gift card.
Here's what he emailed back: "I just wanted to let someone from WoodLoch know how much the gift card for $25 they handed out at Viewmont Mall on Saturday 12/7 meant to someone. I am a housekeeper and as I was pushing my trash cart, I was handed a card. I am constantly being handed things from people, be it sales or religious stuff, or things people want thrown away. I took the card, and simply stuck it in my pocket. I probably did not even say "thank you." But when I got back to the break room and saw it was a gift card for $25, I went back out looking for the people to say thank you. You see, I had given someone else some money for gas earlier in the week, and was going to run out of gas myself before payday to get back and forth to work. So the $25 gift card was an answer to a prayer. You can not out give God. Bless you for your gifts. One of the other housekeepers found a gift card in the trash, and it answered a specific prayer request for him too. Thank you so much, God Bless, and Merry Christmas."
It's like motivational speaker and author Leo Buscaglia once said: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring all of which have the potential to turn a life around. "