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Holli's take: A host of ‘angels’ brightens Christmas
Simple donations when touring TMT Farms bring God’s grace
TMT Farms
Roy and Deborah Thompson wave to visitors and thank them for donations during their family's annual Christmas lights extravaganza at TMT Farms in this 2014 file photo. The annual drive-thru Christmas lights display at TMT Farms that attracts thousands of visitors each year is set to open Thursday at sunset on Thanksgiving Day. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

It might be a bleak Christmas for some, but a host of “angels” are helping turn those Christmases wonderfully merry. And most of these angels may not know the giving role they play just by dropping token donations as they drive through the TMT Christmas lights display.

From all across the state, and even further, people come in cars that form long lines as they filter through tunnels of lighted arches, past the towering Christmas tree grain bins and an assortment of inflatable holiday characters at TMT. They stop only briefly at the gaily decorated donation booth to leave behind a sack of canned goods, a bag of pet food or a child’s toy before enjoying the rest of the self-guided tour.

As these visitors peruse the 15-acre Thompson family farm, driving past millions of lights artfully draped in the treetops, on fences, around poles; enjoying the displays of old farm equipment, antique cars, a replica Western town and models of historic Bulloch County sites, they most likely do not think about what their donations will mean to those who will receive them.

Most never know the single woman who, through heartbreaking loss, finds herself alone with a young child, facing the prospect of a scant Christmas. Bills that couldn’t be paid mean no extra cash for the child’s gifts.

Most visitors are never aware of the struggling couple with two kids and two minimum-wage jobs, stressing over being able to buy groceries, much less to repair the family’s only mode of transportation.

No, as visitors drive past the teepees and covered wagons draped in colored lights, past a graceful Christmas unicorn, a lighted American flag, and Santa flying through the air in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, most of them likely never give another thought to the donations they hand over.

They might not know how a small boy dreads Christmas this year. He remembers the years past when his classmates bragged about what Santa brought them, but he didn’t even get a filled stocking.

This year, Santa will deliver, thanks to the efforts of many.

 

Not only about the lights

TMT Farms isn’t just about the lights. It is about the Light — the grace, the glory of God’s love, sent through thousands of angels who visit the annual spectacular and give.

Roy Thompson gets emotional when he talks about one family who drove past the donation booth one night, but had nothing to give.

The people were welcomed warmly and invited to enjoy the sights. As they started to drive off, “that back window came down and a little boy reached out with four pennies,” he said. “I have told that story time after time.”

The spirit of giving, of caring for others, is what Christmas is all about, he said.

Most of us are blessed in that we have never had to survive on cheap hot dogs and ramen noodles, have never had to drive a car in winter with no heat or wear bargain basement clothing because the rent needed to be paid and the light bill was due.

Most of us are fortunate to have adequate jobs, family, and full refrigerators and freezers. We have Christmas trees surrounded with beautifully wrapped gifts; turkey and ham with the trimmings load our holiday tables. Our stockings overflow.

Not everyone is that fortunate.

Some are struggling daily, trying to make ends meet with only one income. Some are ill and have lost work because of it. Maybe there were lay-offs or sudden expenses. While it is a sad fact that there are some out there who don’t even try to better themselves, there are even more who are fighting the battle and just need a helping hand.

 

Making a ‘Merry Christmas’

Even those adults who could do better, but do not, may have children who would not have Christmas gifts if not for people like the Thompsons, the people who volunteer to help them and the people who take the time to offer a donated toy or food.

Innocent children should not have a sad Christmas.

The blessings originate from God, but he uses mere humans to be the messengers and deliverers of his grace. Every person who has volunteered at the TMT donation booth, helped string lights, given even a can of beans to the cause has been part of the blessings.

If only they all could see first-hand what their small gestures mean to the people who benefit.

I happened to be present recently when one family learned they would have a merry Christmas in spite of recent hardships and loss.

Unaware of the pending surprise, the tired woman walked into the room, lines of worry weighing down her face. Her truck needed work, her water heater at home died, and she recently was robbed.

The small boy in her family was excited about Christmas, but she didn’t know where she would get the money to buy toys.

When she learned her family would be helped by the generosity of this community, the range of emotions that rolled over her face included shock, then relief, then pure joy. Tears flowed. Then the most heartfelt words escaped her lips: “Praise God.”

If that isn’t the essence of “Merry Christmas,” I don’t know what is.

The season isn’t over, and many more families need help. The yearly effort fills not only the pantries of those in need, but restocks local food banks for the better part of the year.

TMT Farms on Old River Road North near Statesboro is open through Dec. 27. The Thompsons invite all to come enjoy the sights, give if you can, and hopefully catch a taste of the true meaning of Christmas.

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