In A Shot Of Optimism

The Downtown Rotary Club in Nashville has a partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank, an amazing organization that serves individuals and families across Tennessee. As a Rotarian I’ve loved volunteering at the food bank, sorting donations, packing boxes and assembling backpacks for kids who are at risk of not having enough food over the weekend.

But, without a doubt, my favorite food bank volunteer job is the Christmas Feed the Need Project. On a Saturday close to Christmas, volunteers fan out across the neighborhood (where we focus much of our service work) and deliver two boxes of food to each house that has signed up.

As the person opens the door to receive the food box, I introduce myself, asking if they have a Christmas carol request. Since I started singing in church choirs before I could read, I know all the words to almost any Christmas carol you can think of.

Last Saturday, there was a couple at my first stop. The wife appeared ill and was stretched out on the sofa. Her husband answered the door. She seemed hesitant at first about accepting my invitation, but I reassured her that I really did know all the carols.

“Sing that one about Noel,” she said timidly.

“You mean The First Noel?”

“Yes, I think that’s the one”.

As I started singing, she smiled, her husband joined in and soon she maneuvered herself to a sitting position and came in for the final chorus. I sang The First Noel several more times, O Come All Ye Faithful, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and even a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer duet with a skeptical twenty-something.

It’s easy and false to believe that the giving was just from me to them. It wasn’t. They gave more than equal measure. They shared their memories by joining me and singing carols from another time and place. They shared their surprise and delight at the sheer unexpectedness of a stranger coming to their door and singing with them. And I shared my music and my appreciation for the gift they had given me.

We can’t give unless someone is willing to receive. And their willingness becomes a gift back to us. It’s all part of the same virtuous cycle.

So this holiday season, participate. Give and receive – each needs the other to make the circle complete.

Merry Christmas!

Until the New Year,




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