[caption id=”attachment_10133” align=”aligncenter” width=”441”] Above: Students at Beacon Christian School design cards for clients of Community Care, a non-profit in St. Catharines.[/caption]
For many, Black Friday marks the start of a frenzied, consumerist driven Christmas season. The pressure to buy more stuff for less money is everywhere: On billboards, in magazine advertisements and in the lyrics of radio jingles. Amid crowded parking lots and chaotic shopping malls the simple joy of finding the right gift often evades us.
At Beacon Christian School (BCS) in St. Catharines students are taking an alternative, and more inspiring approach to the season.
“Part of what we try to do at Beacon Christian School is to immerse our students in a different story,” wrote the school’s principal, Ralph Pot, in a recent blog post. “A story that not only asks and tells students to live thankfully, but gives them opportunity to do so.”
It’s an attitude that BCS students modelled with grace and intentionality last November.
After looking at the theme of “servant working”, multi-grade small groups made efforts to share their presence and their gifts with the school’s surrounding community.
Two groups brought warm cups of Tim Hortons coffee to homes in the neighbourhood. Others made and delivered cards to children at the nearby hospital, and to residents at a local retirement home.
“We know some of the elderly people there,” said Lauren, a BCS student. “They were really excited about us giving them coffee. It was really fun just helping out our neighbours across the street with what we could do.”
Groups also gave out candy canes to community members waiting in line at the Ministry of Transportation licensing office and to shoppers at Giant Tiger.
Although community members were a bit suspicious at first, their demeanours changed when they realized students weren’t out selling a product.
“They had big smiles and grateful words,” said BCS Teacher, Lisa Vanderkuip, adding that the people who received free coffees were also very excited.
Interactions were enjoyable on both sides. Students were “surprised and delighted by the reactions they received,” noted Vanderkuip.
Although these moments of connection were an unexpected reward for BCS students, the experience was about more than passing along a few warm fuzzies.
In the advent season especially, members of the school will be encouraged to have “servant hearts” as they reach out to the people in their community “who need to see and experience the love of God,” explained Vanderkuip.
“We can’t just talk about what it looks like,” she noted. “We wanted our students to see the many opportunities they have daily for servant working.”
And, certainly, these are opportunities that exist beyond classroom walls.
“It’s kind of fun to go out and do stuff for public people—not just Christians,” noted Evan, a BCS student who helped hand out candy canes at Giant Tiger. “Being in a small community can be fun but going larger can sometimes be ten times better.”
Lauren was quick to chime in with agreement. “We talk about in chapel how we need to be a movement of our community … your actions are a lot stronger than your words.”
“Our whole entire stereo type of Christmas to the world is about Santa Claus, and presents and we want this and we want that and ponies and hot wheels, and all that stuff. And really, at Beacon, what we focus on is the true meaning of Christmas— giving and Jesus—and what He did for us.”
For Lauren, and for many students at BCS, celebrating the season’s “true meaning” has also been an exercise in simply being present. At the end of the day it’s about “showing people that we care for them,” she said, “and that we’re here”.