After lunch, my grandmother dropped me off at the American Red Cross Panhandle Plains office, across the street from Lubbock High School. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2019, and the wind blowing strongly, as it always does in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas. It carried a bite that ushered everyone inside to find shelter, even though it was a sunny day.
I had signed up to help decorate the office for Christmas, along with a few other high school students from the area. All of us came from a local volunteer service program for high schoolers. The program helps students reach out in the community, and I believed it was a good opportunity to help those around me and get to know the service organizations, including those affiliated with the Red Cross.
Out of the six or so volunteers who signed up to help, I was one of the first ones there. An older woman with silver hair and a nice smile wearing a sweater welcomed me. She had a cheerful and spritely attitude. I figured that was probably quintessential to have an attitude like that for a job like this—cheerful, encouraging, even in the darkest of times for other people.
We were led to a conference room with red walls and a beige carpet. They opened a small closet that was full of clear tubs. A boy found the Christmas tree, and we got to work on getting it set up. A girl found the lights and started untangling them. I helped put up the ornaments and tinsel, and when we turned on the white lights, the smaller tree looked as wonderful as any great pine.
When I found the vacuum, I started getting to work on cleaning the place up and making it nice and orderly. I helped lay out tablecloths—red with holly as a pattern—and someone put on Christmas music in the background.
It’s always funny to hear so many songs about snow when you live in a place that rarely gets it, if ever. But the atmosphere was filled with joyous volunteers, hoping to help convey the same welcoming spirit that was found in our own homes. In this moment, putting up ornaments and helping arrange decorations, I felt at home knowing that it’s the small things that can make all the difference in the world.
Christmas is a time of cold, often harsh winds, but a welcoming environment provides a warmth that cannot be matched by hot chocolate or a fireplace, I believe. This is what I hoped I was able to provide. An atmosphere that was inviting and comforting to all.
With all the power of teamwork, we got everything put up within an hour, if not less. Before I left, I was happy to see what we had accomplished—a pair of open, welcome arms for those that needed help. Everything a Red Cross symbolizes.