LUMBERTON — The spirit of Christmas hung heavy in the air Saturday as about 100 children from across Robeson County took part in the annual Christmas party held at Parkview Activity Center.
The children and adult members of their families were treated to a breakfast that featured pancakes and sausage, joined in the singing of Christmas carols and made presentations about what Christmas means to them. Each child received a present at the end.
“We want the children to get a clearer understanding of what Christmas is really all about,” said Lori Washington, the center’s coordinator and organizer of Saturday’s party. “We want them to know that Christmas is not just about gifts. That’s why we have them come up and tell everyone what Christmas means to them.”
Several children took the microphone and spoke of what they believe Christmas is about.
“It’s all about God,” said one child.
“Being with family,” said another.
“Christmas is the time to celebrate Jesus’ birth,” said yet a third child.
Washington told the children they should be happy with what they get for Christmas. She said there are many children who don’t have even the necessities of life, including such things as “soap, water and lights.”
“All they have is the roof over their head,” she said.
“You might not get everything you want, but that’s OK,” Washington told the children. “Sometimes God doesn’t want you to have something because you are not ready to receive it yet.”
Gloria McDuffie stood up to let folks know that this Christmas is really special to her.
“My son died at the age of 21 six years ago, and since then I have had no interest in Christmas,” said McDuffie, a Lumberton resident. “This is the first year in so many years that Christmas means anything to me.”
McDuffie said she has learned how to appreciate life, family and sharing with others what blessings she has had during her lifetime.
“I like to donate gifts to children in need,” she said. “This year I’ve spent $2,000 to $3,000 on gifts for others, in addition to what I needed to spend just for my family.”
McDuffie has three children in addition to the one who died of a heart attack six years ago. She also has nine grandchildren.
During brief remarks, Washington also had a message for parents. She told them that although it is fine to want to give their children the best of everything, it is not something they should be ashamed of if they cannot. She said that as parents, they need to be “mindful” of what they buy for their children and how it will affect the lives of their families later on.
Washington said she knows of parents who are giving their 4-year-old children iPads for Christmas.
“Now what can a 4-year-old do with an iPad?” she asked. “The next thing you know the child has broken it and you are struggling after Christmas to pay for something that costs about $500.”
The celebration became somber as a brief candlelight ceremony was held to honor the children who were killed Friday during a gunman’s rampage through an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children at the party each held a lit candle in remembrance of the 20 Connecticut students who died.
“This was senseless killing of children,” Washington said as she led those at the party in a brief prayer.
The big moment for many of the children came at the end of the day’s activities when each received a gift. The gifts were supplied through McCormick Chapel AME, a Lumberton church.
Lucille Barnes, a member of the church, said the gifts were collected from across North Carolina by the Women’s Missionary Society and the Young People’s Department of AME’s North Carolina Conference.
“This is the first time that these gifts have been distributed to children in Lumberton,” Barnes said.