It is December! The end of the year is quickly approaching, and has me wondering what exactly happened to November. It seems we are all adding holiday parties, shopping, and seasonal rituals to our already full lives. Rushing home to prepare dinner for your family, or hitting the gym now has the added stress of picking up that perfect gift, or baking treats for the office. Christmas lights and decorations are starting to pop up around the city, and the Washington Monument’s annual lighting and firework display kicked off the eggnog in my home.

I would bet that each year, as you strive to enjoy the season, stay warm and gracefully cram everything in, someone on your radar reminds you to ‘slow down’ or to refocus on the ‘reasons we celebrate.’ I’m trying to do that myself. This year, with the economy still on a low roller coaster, and most of us examining our budgets I’ve noticed that some people are setting an example I want to emulate myself.

Last week, a group from the Church of the Nativity visited the center. They wanted to volunteer a few hours to help out, and start their holiday season off with an attitude of giving back, rather than consumption. It was simple, and festive, and it included a lot of peanut butter.

As many of you know, November 6, 2009 The Franciscan Center shut its doors on Friday. Due to financial limitations, the Center’s leadership found it necessary to temporarily reduce the total number of days that the Center is open, from 5 to 4.

The Center has attempted to offset the impact on our clients by relying more heavily on volunteer resources, and have partnered with local organizations to provide a sack lunch with the meal program on Thursdays, in an effort to ensure that the clients have access to food on Fridays, while the dining room is closed.

Lining up in an assembly line, in one of the Center’s classrooms, the volunteer group made over 400 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they bagged them with chips, cookies, and fruit. Lastly a drink was added and the bags stacked in boxes for distribution the next morning. Insuring that our clients don’t go hungry on Friday.

I was suprised by the quick efficentcy of the group. Taking less than three hours to turn out the entire project. One of the volunteers told me that she wanted to come because it being socially responsible on a local level has become increasingly importiant in her life. She states, “It changes me. I’m nicer to those around me, it reminds me to live my life fully. I’m lucky and I need to help others around me. I can’t just be self centered anymore, it stifles my soul.”

I couldn’t agree more.