Four years ago, in lieu of bringing plates of Christmas goodies to each other, I suggested the idea of a food drive to people in my neighborhood. Everyone thought it was a terrific idea, and with the help of my neighbors, our first neighborhood food drive was an amazing success. Ever since, we have experienced untold joy in our new Christmas tradition. Every year we invite all of our neighbors to use the money they would normally spend on gifts and treats for each other to buy food for the local food bank. On the day of the drive, we open our garage, and all of the neighbors bring a plate of goodies to share a wide variety of donations--items like canned soup, baby formula, diapers, and peanut butter. One family even makes a quilt anonymously and puts it into the back of our truck without anyone seeing. Last year, I saw that someone had donated several bags of candy, and we realized that children somewhere would be getting Christmas candy that they wouldn't have had otherwise. It was such a rewarding realization. At the food drive, the neighbors come together, drink hot chocolate, visit, and try to make a difference. Instead of simply leaving gifts on each other's doorsteps, neighbors look forward to really spending time with each other, and as we grow closer together, the generosity of the neighborhood continues to grow. The first year, our donations filled the back of a pick-up truck. Last year, more than two hundred people showed up, and we filled two trucks with a ton of donations--literally! People at the food bank weighed the items, and the donations we collected as a neighborhood weighed more than two thousand pounds! They couldn't believe it. Now, the neighbors don't wait for the day of the food drive to start giving. They start leaving donations outside our door several days before, and continue to leave things a few days after. It makes my holidays to see their thoughtfulness, and I'm determined to keep this tradition going. Not only does it give us a tremendous opportunity to give back to our community, but it also brings us closer as families and as a neighborhood. My children help each year, and they love to do it. My family feels a sense of unity when we are all working together toward a common goal, especially when that goal is to help someone else. Seeing the generosity of others inspires us to be more generous. Everyone is so willing to give and show their love for one another and for the people we are trying to help--people we don't even know. Our neighborhood food drive brings out the charity in us all and helps us to feel the true spirit of the holiday season. Why not give it a try in your own neighborhood? You'll be glad you did!
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