Thanksgiving is here. It's a special time when all of us can give thanks for our lives and the many blessings that we have received. Then it is Christmas – a wonderful time of year when families get together and share the excitement of opening gifts among family and friends. And before we know it, it is December 31, New Year's Eve, and time for us to look back over the past year at what we have done and what we failed to do. Most of all, we need to look forward to what we will do in the coming new year.
The new year, 2020, is truly upon us! As we meditate on our blessings, perhaps we should examine how we have shared those blessings with others. Perhaps we are using the excuse that we have so little to share, it wouldn't make a difference. Not true! Over time, a little at a time can add up to a whole, whole lot!
For example, let's look at what a difference the Minten Sisters have made with their gifts to Driscoll Children's Hospital. The three sisters, Dorothy, Esther, and Janie, have made a huge difference with their sharing during the past years. In 1976, they had decorated their entire home with their collection of Christmas memorabilia kept from their childhoods and into their adult years. To all of these they had added many new decorations. They had a couple of parties and an open house that year for family and friends. The next year, they had the parties but needed to have two open houses to accommodate all the family and friends who wanted to see all the different things they had collected during the past year.
By 1981, they were having six open houses plus several other parties with over 600 people attending. Before sending out the invitations for the 1982 events, the three sisters and their parents (now deceased) decided to make these parties count for something. It was decided that the family would give $2 for every guest that attended that Christmas. By 1986, so many people had heard about their Christmas decorations and the imaginative, creative way in which they displayed them in their ranch home, that they were prompted to open their home for public tours by reservation only. (Do not just drive up to their home unannounced! You must have reservations or be part of a pre-arranged tour.)
Their home became known as The Christmas House, and next door in the farmhouse, their grandfather had built in 1926, they opened a year 'round Christmas store called Santa's Texas Workshop. Now, the sisters (Dorothy aged 92, Esther, 88, and Janie, 75) are currently in their 34th year of having their home open to the public. They are still raising money for Driscoll Children's Hospital.
How have they done this? There are several ways--$1 from each modest entrance fee charged to paying guests; $2 for each non-paying guest (family, close friends, paying guests who return for subsequent tours during the same season). The sisters share the latter by adding their 1/3 to their own personal donations which they give annually.
Then there is the ORGAN FUND. In 1993, a guest from McAllen jokingly gave Dorothy a nickel "tip" for playing the antique pump organ. Dorothy didn't want her to do that, so she told the lady that she would make sure that the nickel would be given to Driscoll at the end of the season. Other guests left money on the organ during the remainder of the season, so it became a separate way to raise money. Since then, every year, guests at the first tour of each season have started the Organ Fund, and tour guests have perpetuated it to the tune of a grand total of $91,590.46. Every penny of that Organ Fund goes to Driscoll Children's Hospital to help children in South Texas who have heart problems. It is part of the grand total, $360,025, raised since 1982. It is proof that everyone makes a difference.
According to Janie Minten, some of their most generous guests who contribute to the Organ Fund are the students from La Gloria School, a small elementary school founded in 1909 to serve the educational needs of the rural ranching/farming community. (The Minten Sisters grandfather was one of the three founders). Five generations of Minten family descendants have attended that school, and Dorothy and Esther came back after college and each taught there for over 30 years each!
Every year, the sisters invite the school to bring each of their classes (pre-k through 6th grade) to tour the Christmas House. All of those children are admitted free, but they love to bring donations to put on the organ. They also love to shop the after Christmas ½-price sale after their tour of the house. When paying, if they have change coming, most of them say, "Just keep the change, I want to help the children who are sick!" That money is always added to the Organ Fund!
So, what started in 1982, as a small donation from the Minten Family has now become a sizeable amount contributed to by thousands of people during the years. What started as a nickel donation on the organ has contributed a grand total that is now getting close to $400,000.00. None of us have so little that we cannot share what little we have. We, too, can make a difference!
Over time, even a nickel multiplies and continues to multiply. Let us all share our talents and our blessings and remember what Charles Dickens said through the character of Scrooge, "I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year!"