This Christmas, my wife and I decided to try and add a new tradition to our family’s holiday schedule. Honestly, not sure why the idea popped up in our heads, and we were a little uncertain of how it would go, but essentially, we decided to hand out trophies for Christmas light displays. We love taking our kids to look at lights and to enjoy peoples’ creativity, and everyone loves getting a trophy. So it seemed like a good idea. Right?
It was a smashing success, more than we ever could have imagined. We purchased trophies from our good friends at Capital Trophy, just down the hill from our house. We got one trophy for each of the kids, and one for Traci and I, and we baked a plate of homemade goodies for each winner and included a small tract on the true meaning of Christmas. Tati was first to pick out a house as her favorite, and so we stopped in front of the home, walked up to front door, and knocked -- each of us a little nervous about what might happen.
When a woman finally came to the door, you could tell she was a little uncertain. After all, there were six of us standing on her porch, and one of us was holding a shiny little trophy and a plate -- probably looked like we were selling something. When we explained the reason why we were on her porch and extended the trophy and goodies to her, she lit up brighter than her Christmas-light display (which was very significant!) and hollered into the house, “We won a trophy!” She was ecstatic, and so were we.
BJ chose the next house, which ended up being a family from our church. We went in and enjoyed a short visit with them before moving on to CJ’s choice. Hers was one by the church, one we had driven by several times during the Christmas season. When we approached this door, an older gentleman answered and he too, was a little skeptical. After a minute of me explaining our purpose, he was blown away! He too hollered to his wife, “Honey...we won a trophy!” She replied, “What? What for?” And with obvious great pride and satisfaction he said, “For our Christmas light display!”
There were a few moments of confusion until she finally came to the door and saw him holding the hardware CJ had given him. They were beaming. The man didn’t know what to do so naturally he invited us in and showed us their entire Christmas display which included a 3-track train set around the tree, complete with village, fake snow and lots of lights. He was so grateful for the award, you could tell he wanted to do something for us; he just didn’t realize he already had!
AJ’s award was handed out next, and met with similar joy. But as we left that house and returned to our van (which was still parked in front of the guy’s house with the train set), the older gentleman opened his front door and called out to Celina, “Hey, just so you know, I put the trophy right on my mantle and it looks great! Thank you again!” Celina was giddy with excitement, as we all were.
Finally, Traci and I had picked out the house where we wanted to deliver our trophy. After some confusion about where the front door actually was, we found a man, probably a little younger than us, looking skeptically at our family while we offered him goodies and a trophy. When we explained our award, he couldn’t believe it. Immediately he asked, “You want to meet my kids?” We laughed, “Sure!” He brought his young son and daughter to the door and we all shook hands and talked about Christmas. He too, was so grateful.
We went home and all of us were smiling -- such a simple act, yet it meant so much to the five families we blessed. In fact, the next morning, the dad from our last stop, looked us up on facebook (since our names were on the trophy). He just sent a note saying, “Thanks for the award. It actually made my Christmas. All those hours hanging lights was totally worth it.” Who knew an $8 trophy and a plate of cookies could be so powerful?
That was one of the most valuable lessons we learned about our little trophy experiment. It wasn’t hard and It didn’t require that much from us. But the end result was so significant for each of the recipients. We drove by several of those houses a few times after we gave the awards and we wondered how many of them shared the story of their trophy with others. The dad from facebook had taken a picture and posted it on his profile (the picture above); over 30 people ended up liking or commenting on his lights and award. The older gentleman near the church, I’m sure, showed every guest his award while showing them the train sets and special Christmas decorations.
Living the Overboard life requires that we seize the little moments that come our way. We cannot become so enamored with the big events, the big goals, the big dreams and projects that we forget about the little things that mean so much. Traci and I went to bed that night, laughing with delight, about how those awards gave entrance into peoples’ lives. We got to meet spouses and kids, and even pick up one little grand baby who asked to be held. We got to share in their joy of Christmas and that was the greatest honor of all.
We definitely have a great new tradition we’ll enjoy each year, but I hope our family doesn’t wait until next Christmas to do something simple, yet significant, for some strangers in our city. Who knows what impact our little actions can have, but I do know for certain: no action, will result in no impact. Improve someone’s life with a little act of service. Look for the opportunities God gives you every day, and snatch one up for His glory. You’ll find two things. First, you may “make someone’s day” with a simple gesture of friendship. Two, you’ll definitely make your day -- it’s a win/win.
Living the Overboard life isn’t always easy. But when we step out of the comfort of the boat and start living life on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom, we will always be most-satisfied.
So go ahead and take the plunge -- life is better on the water!