The teenage girl stood in the fellowship hall of Flint Hill Baptist Church Monday with a baby boy in her left arm. In her right arm was a bag of toys for that child she had when so young.
Up to the girl came Alice Ann McClurkin, an elder at the church. McClurkin pressed a blanket, more gifts, into the arms of the teenaged girl.
“Young lady, Merry Christmas,” said McClurkin, who again this year organized an annual toy, gift, and food giveaway at Flint Hill. “You are loved.”
The girl, close to crying, said she was so thankful for this last minute help on Christmas Eve as she struggles to get by. So many others of all ages said the same thing Monday, which is why Flint Hill, along with so many other churches, puts on the annual Christmas Eve event. St. Matthew AME Zion, Cornerstone Presbyterian, Woodland Presbyterian, Eastview Baptist, Second Baptist, St. John United Methodist, Westminster Presbyterian, Grace Lutheran, Epiphany Lutheran, and First Presbyterian all teamed up again this year to help those in need.
And those in need are many, and came from across the city. There were men wearing the clothes they slept in, without a home. Those men received something Christmas Eve to ease the heavy burden life had placed on their weary shoulders.
Women with little children showed up, and older ladies. And so many kids, who all received gifts. The presents, and the huge amount of food, all of it was donated by these churches who come together, uniting the differences of color and denomination, into a single unit of giving to mark the holiday that knows no color or denomination.
The people of these churches worked side by side in the kitchen and fellowship hall and sanctuary. Some people delivered meals to shut-ins around the city. All worked as a team.
The children of Flint Hill collected prayer requests. John “Bird” Ellis from St. Mary Catholic Church sang songs that he said were meant to be uplifting, saying, “I’m glad to do it, so that all might have joy.”
Flint Hill threw open its doors to all, again on Christmas Eve 2012 as it has for almost two decades, to mark the holiday that started when doors were closed to Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus Christ. No one was turned away Monday at Flint Hill. All came in, even if the shoes were scuffed and the steps a shuffle.
More than a hundred children received toy gifts. Adults also received a gift bag. No one was left out.
The pastor at Flint Hill, Rev. Cedric Maddox, told all in that audience who clapped and sang that station in life is not the measuring stick of Christmas. It is, plainly, “goodwill in the hearts of people who give to others.”
Outside after the service, and the gifts and food were given away, the rain beat down outside on a cold day. The men of Flint Hill church, and the other churches, walked people out to cars under umbrellas. The men opened car doors and helped people inside the cars. The men wished all those people joy for Christmas, then walked back in the rain to help someone else.
Andrew Dys * 803-329-4065 * firstname.lastname@example.org