It's almost cliché at Christmas to talk about how it is better to give than to receive. But this week I met a young man who believes that adage unequivocally.
Michael Driggers is a senior at Mount Pleasant High School. His project is raising money to buy Christmas presents and to give a party for the children at one of the cottages of the Church of God Children's Home Orphanage.
Michael is basically a one-man operation. He raises money, gathers wish lists, goes shopping, delivers the presents and throws a party for the children himself. He gives credit to folks at his church, Miami Baptist in Concord, for helping with both the bake sale and pancake breakfast he held this year to earn money for his project.
This is the fifth year Michael has given away gifts at Christmas, and this year he's helping more children than ever before. In fact, the first time I talked to Michael, he had just received a wish list for a seventh child, who had recently arrived at the orphanage.
You can hear the enthusiasm and joy in Michael's voice as he talks about shopping, and especially planning for the party they'll have on Saturday. Again, his church will be helping: Someone is baking a cake; a man is dressing like Santa; and members of the youth group are providing help with other party supplies, as well as attending the event.
I was so impressed with Michael's enthusiasm for his project and his commitment to it that I wanted to understand what drives him to spread Christmas joy. As he began to tell me his story, I was floored.
Michael Driggers has lived a life no one would wish for a child. Raised in homes marked by abuse or drug use, he always hoped for a more stable living situation. Bounced through foster homes and repeatedly disappointed by family members, about a year ago Michael asked Larry Merrill, a member at Miami Baptist Church, to help him find a small apartment.
Merrill invited Michael to live with his family instead, and Michael is very thankful for the help and support he's received from the Merrill family.
What so impressed me about Michael is that while he was being shuffled from home to home and one bad living situation after another, he committed himself to helping other people, specifically foster children, at Christmas. Michael said he never received Christmas presents, so he wants to make sure that doesn't happen to other kids.
To him, what makes Christmas wonderful is seeing the joy in the faces of others, knowing that he helped put it there.
If you'd like to get in touch with Michael - to catch a little bit of his joy, or to help with his project - you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.