‘Twas the night before Christmas, for this volunteer,
I sat in my house, warmed by the cheer.
Full of good food and counting each friend,
I took just a moment to reflect at year-end.

Those that I love were snuggled up tight,
Dreaming of who would be coming that night.
Seeing the presents all wrapped ’round the tree,
A disquieting thought slowly crept over me.

Cold winds were blowing just outside my door,
Reminding my heart of things I could not ignore.
The hungry and homeless, lost in our city,
Poor, lonely seniors who deserve more than pity!

Children in schools that can’t help their need,
Wishing for someone to teach them to read.
For those living each day as they battle HIV,
Having access to fresh, healthy groceries is key!

“There’s so much to do,” I said with a sigh,
“Who’s up to the challenge?” Surely not I!
I’m just plain, old me; I can’t solve all this woe.
I wouldn’t know what to do, I don’t know where to go!

So armed with my laptop, I hopped online quick,
Finding the answer took merely a click!
People making a difference without putting on airs,
Each hour they spent proclaimed, “Chicago Cares!”

With knowledgeable partners and bright volunteers,
They’ve been serving the neediest of our city for 20 years!
I registered quickly and signed up right then,
With so many choices I didn’t know where to begin.

Tutoring, art clubs, cooking galore,
BINGO, food pantries, crafting and more.
Serve dinner at a shelter and show off Bubbie’s kugel,
Or spend time with seniors to teach them to Google.

With so many ways to simply give back,
I pictured a day when no Chicagoan need lack,
The basics of life we’re all meant to enjoy;
A healthy, safe life for each girl and boy.

I called on my family, each in-law and cousin,
Soon a roomful of computers really got things a-buzzin’.
We each found a project that was close to our heart,
Knowing, full well, that this was just a start.

Just like The Grinch I suddenly knew,
Like a crash of thunder coming out of the blue;
“Maybe Christmas need not come from a store
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”*

And what if this feeling, these actions could last,
What if I need not return to the past?
By choosing to serve throughout the whole year,
Each day, week and month could be filled with good cheer!

What started as sadness soon become hope,
Serving my neighbors and helping them cope.
My greatest surprise was not under the tree,
The gift I received, was a more happy me!

It’s been awhile, I’ll stop bending your ear,
But with this piece of advice, go serve, volunteer!
When we help one another the world feels so right,
Now “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

*Borrowed with love from Dr. Seuss’ ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’