Lake Norman & Mooresville

Some finding the meaning of Christmas

Complaints about the commercialization of Christmas are common.

Many Mooresville residents try to combat those complaints with their own ways of keeping the meaning of Christmas.

Brenda Kinley writes letters - but not a traditional Christmas-card letter.

Rather, Kinley writes an old-fashioned personal letter to her children and grandchildren. Kinley, 61, grandmother of five Mooresville children, lives on the north side of Mooresville, off N.C. 21.

She gets some input from her husband, Rob. She also helps Santa write letters to her grandchildren.

"Holidays are a real emotional time to me," said Kinley. "I miss my parents. A lot of what I do is what my mother did. My mother thought Christmas was magic.

"My mother died in January 1978. The month before she died, my mother still did stockings for all of us: the traditional stockings - an apple, an orange, nuts and a dollar. We make magic for children, but not for adult children.

"I want to make magic for them, so I decided Santa needed to come even for the adult children. My Santa letters evolved."

The letters are about family, and sometimes they offer advice, but mostly Brenda's reason for the letters is simple: "I really hate that I don't have anything written by my parents," she said.

"It's so important to tell your children what you think about things, what you care about, and what you believe. Family is everything. They need written remembrances for how their family feels and thinks.

"I want them to believe: To be intentionally seeking the good in people. To be loving and caring for each other. We have a real responsibility for our children to believe in a better world. It gets so caught up in the commercial side of it," she said.

As for her own method of dealing with the commercials side, Kinley said, "No gifts - we're giving to the soup kitchen. But Santa does come, and he gives them each a gift and a letter, too.

"The gift is something Santa prepares for all year. Last year, Santa shocked 62-year-old Rob by bringing him a Lionel train as he prepares for retirement, a gift to share with his four grandsons and one granddaughter."

The Kinleys' techniques must be working, because their 11-year-old grandson, Matthew, said, "Christmas is a time of sharing and joy."

Kinley's daughter, Jenny Shaver, 38, also a Mooresville resident, said, "When you first read your Christmas letter, it's cool. When you look at it later, it's really cool. It captures her thoughts for the year, looking back down the road.

"It's not a gift in the moment - it's a gift into the future. "

All around town, I searched for the meaning of Christmas. The Farms subdivision in Mooresville has a neighborhood Christmas party and holds a silent auction. Items donated by area residents include items from various businesses or services provided. The proceeds from the auction are donated to benefit local families in need at the holidays.

How does a party keep the meaning of Christmas?

Bob and Deborah Shotkus live in the Point neighborhood of Mooresville. For the past seven years, they have opened their home each Christmas season to more than 60 people - all the people Bob has contact with in his banking career.

Deborah, 61, a first-grade teacher at Cloverleaf Elementary in Statesville, and Bob prepare for the party with "two weeks of continuous work around our jobs. Not showing off, but putting our best out."

The two shop, prepare and do all the cooking and preparation, with sumptuous food and good wine in the "spirit of love."

"It's all about the people," said Bob Shotkus. "I know what the real meaning of Christmas is - the reason we are celebrating - but we do this because it's all about the people."

Deborah said, "I keep thinking about the good I'm doing. It's a lot of hard work. I have two friends, like little elves, who helped me prepare for the party: Brenda Mitchell and her daughter, Gwen, who live off McKendree in Mooresville.

"Brenda said to me, 'Do you realize people who come through this house might not ever have a meal like this?' Honoring people, putting our best foot forward, looking at what we have done through her eyes. You just don't know. You don't know what people's situations are; many people have lost their job."

"The party, it reminds me of my faith, every time we have a party, it's like the bell in 'It's A Wonderful Life' - something happens to make me feel like it's worth it," said Deborah Shotkus.

After the party, Bob and Deborah washed all the platters, almost 100 different glasses, and carried out many bags of trash.

The next morning Deborah and Bob taught Sunday school to a class of 6-year-olds.