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On candy, empathy lessons, and Santa by Jennifer Huffman

On candy, empathy lessons, and Santa

The walk into the church the Sunday after Halloween was a solemn one.

Coming down from a week-long sugar high, my three children walked in slow motion through the halls of Second Baptist Church, each clutching three gallon-sized Ziploc bags to their chest as if the contents inside were sacred. And to them, they were: this year’s trick-or-treating yielded a stellar booty that would have lasted through 2018, had we decided it could stick around.

Finally (finally!) they arrived at a large cardboard box that contained an impressive collection of candy designated for this year’s Christmas Store, our congregation’s gesture to making the holiday a bit more magical—and definitely more affordable—for underprivileged families in our community. The children exchanged somber looks, then took turns laying their bags like babies atop all the rest. My daughter actually patted her bags, hearts in her eyes.

“Those kids are gonna love finding all that candy in their stockings,” my wistful nine-year-old said to his brother and sister. They studied the heap of sweet treats and wished for a hot second it was all theirs.

“Can I at least have one more sucker?” asked my six-year-old.

It’s hard to say goodby to ten pounds of Snickers and Skittles.


Last year, our family was one of many who helped with the Christmas Store. The day of the event, we walked with parents and grandparents as they selected fantastic, age-appropriate gifts for their kids, donated by generous 2BC elves throughout the fall. We played and colored with their waiting children. We ran wagons full of wrapped presents through snow-covered streets to running cars. All of us went home full of joy, connected to those people we met during a day of defining moments that led to empathy lessons and conversations about how Christmas is sometimes inflated to be about things that it’s not, how serving and sharing with others can be sheer gifts that cost nothing.

Then, inspired by goodwill from the day and an essay that’s stuck with me for years, we pulled out of the Santa charade. Maybe it was a radical and very un-American move of us, as Jen Hatmaker would say, but we wanted to give Christmas back to Jesus. Not a corner of it, all of it.

And . . . we survived, not a single disappointed tear shed. I will try to promise my kids won’t spoil traditions for your kids, and I absolutely AM NOT JUDGING anyone who still incorporates Santa into their traditions. (We ho-ho-ho’ed through ten years of Christmases before coming to this!) We still have surprise Santa-like deliveries on Christmas morning, and the kids still start their wish lists in October.  

But we will also support the Christmas store again this year and look for ways to serve throughout the season. We will purchase gifts with a conscience (that Jen Hatmaker essay has some great ideas) and shoot for 25 days of random acts of kindness even though we will probably only manage to do maybe twelve. Hopefully, please sweet Jesus, such gestures mean my kids will grow up with expanded hearts and the awareness that they are blessed with such abundance, they want to spend their lives blessing others.

That’s the goal, anyway. I’ll be thinking about all of this as I tuck my kids into bed Christmas Eve and wander to the mantle to fill their stockings with a few pieces of leftover Halloween candy I snagged before filling their Ziplocs.

I couldn’t give away all the Skittles.

Are you looking for a way to help with the Christmas Store? We need your help to stock the store with this year’s coolest toys and gifts for kids. Look for the sign-up sheets in the Welcome Center and sign up today to purchase a gift (or two!) for this year’s store (Dec. 14, 15 and 16). If you’d rather have us do the shopping, you can make a monetary donation as well. Contact Karri George at with questions or visit our webpage to learn more and volunteer.

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