To me, one of the most important parts of Christmas is the spirit of giving. For the last three years I've joined with some friends from my church and others from our community to give to others, including an annual project in which we travel to Mexico just after Christmas, to help build houses for those who need them. We do a lot of fundraising to be able to make the trip, and it's a great way for the young people in our Christian Science community to have a giving experience.

Last year, I thought a lot about the connection between giving and humility. and I tried to express more humility every day. To me this meant putting others' interests before mine and knowing that what benefits them will also benefit me. It means to love God and love my neighbor as myself. One dictionary definition of humility that I've found helpful is "to lower in pride; make modest." And of course Jesus explained humility best when he said, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). In my own life, I've met many people who have inspired me to be more humble.

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In spite of my efforts at humility, at the end of the year I was not looking forward to doing our church service project. I was feeling like I had done enough community service already, because I'd done other projects throughout the year. And I really didn't think our projects could help. I just didn't see how building one house would make much of a dent in big problems like poverty and homelessness. So as the church community prepared to leave for our next outreach project, I felt annoyed. Couldn't I do better things with my time?

I went on the trip grudgingly. We arrived in Tecate, Mexico, where we were going to build a home for a mother, her boyfriend, and three little girls, ages twelve, ten, and eight. As soon as our small group of thirteen arrived I realized why we had come. The family's home was small, with a flimsy roof, and I suddenly realized that our work was going to change the lives of these three young girls.

Our group was small, and we only had two days to complete the project, so we had to work hard to finish the house. During the first day, the family served us lunch at the project site, and then the mother and her daughters had dinner where we were staying. We invited them to shower so they could get the paint out of their hair, but they said they had no clothes to change into. As we found things for them to wear, we learned that they had no Christmas because they could not afford gifts. At that point my younger brother looked at me and asked, "How did they feed us all lunch then?" I was absolutely shocked! Where did they come up with food for thirteen people, I wondered? And why would they do that? We were supposed to be giving to them, not the other way around.

All of a sudden, I realized why I had been praying to express more humility. With a humble attitude, I could better express my gratitude to God for all the opportunities He gives me. He gives me the power to help others, and for that I'm willing to give everything I've got.

The next day I was so happy for the opportunity to bond with the three girls. While I taught them bits of English, I was grateful to be building a house so they would no longer sleep in the cold. When we finished and presented the house, we left a humongous red Christmas stocking on the girls' new bed, filled with presents and enough bears and stuffed animals to cover the whole bed.

I made three new friends on this service project. The love I have for them will remain with me, and I will remember them in my prayers. In the end, I was so grateful to participate in this project and to give to this family. I'll even be able to return this Christmas to the same area to build a house for another family. What a great way to celebrate the holidays!

The Sentinel's Teen Editor, Nelles, wands to read about your ideas and experiences.

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Subject: Sentinel teens

December 20, 2010

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