A cherished Christmas tradition for our family has become hanging scarves, gloves, hats, and socks on Christmas Eve at a small park near our library. My dad strings clotheslines between trees in an area where the homeless often spend their days. We prepare handwritten notes ahead of time that are carefully pinned to each of the items, and clothespins help us display each one for selection by someone in need. It’s a beautiful sight.

Last year we collected over 2300 items for Scarf in the Park. This year, even with the pandemic, we started with 1000 warm weather items and generous community volunteers donated another 600.

God sends someone to us each year to remind us that we are doing the work he wants us to do.  He also sends someone that makes us cry.

Last year, it was our collaboration with the women in the county jail that overwhelmed us with emotion. They spent months knitting hats and scarves for us. They would gather in a small conference room day after day. My mom and I stopped by the jail several times to pick up their amazing creations or to drop off yarn.  We became attached to the women. One woman was very pregnant and very young. She was going to be in jail for a year after delivering her baby.  On our last visit there last year, we joined in a circle and hugged. And, we cried. We were moved by their commitment and passion for the event and their desire to do something positive to help others.

This year, the need to cry came early. I had just walked into the park and a man approached me.  He asked if we had any hats or gloves. I told him we were just getting set up and he could take what we wanted but that a wider variety would be available within the hour. He assured me that he would come back and then with a serious and sad face asked me to pray for him. He said he had lost his way and was struggling.

We’ve seen entire families come and carefully walk through the hundreds of items and select just the perfect hat and matching scarf.  This year we watched as a woman with only sandals on her feet snatch up a pair of socks and immediately warmed herself.

We also gather to honor my grandfather who died on Christmas Eve from cancer 31 years ago.  I was born 13 years later and left that same hospital on Christmas Eve. Scarf in the Park always helps me to somehow feel close to him.  My mom cries every time she hangs an item in his memory. These are tears of reminder that bring him back into focus for her on this special occasion. 

We’ve learned that our tears come because we are grateful.  We are grateful for our family, for the community who supports this effort, and for the people who come and share a bit of their lives with us.  The tears are there because we are moved by the hope we see in the faces of those most in need. Our eyes water because we are inspired by the love we feel by everyone who joins us in that tiny park on a night that could be sad and lonely, but because of the spirit of giving, becomes a night of hopefulness. 

No matter what you read on social media or hear on the news, I know better days are ahead. Our community and communities all across this country are full of kind people—people who are extending a hand and lifting up friends and strangers—people who are looking for a reason to believe that their tomorrows will be better. We celebrate the tears and the memorable moments each year brings. But the best part of this holiday event is when the givers and the receivers pass each other, share a glance or a smile, and truly experience the spirit of this blessed season. 

By Morgan Guess