When I was a teenager, my best friend invited me to

sing Christmas carols with her church youth group.

The youth group's minister had a list of shut-ins and our mission that night was to stop in front of as many houses as possible, and belt out Jingle Bells, Silent Night and a few other favorites before movingon. To me, it was an opportunity to have a night out with my friends, dress in my coolest clothes and have hot chocolate together when it was over. It wasn't going to take a whole lot of effort on my part. It didn't cost anything to bring them a song or two. And the reward would be hanging out with my friends once we got the singing out of the way.

Or so I thought - before we began.

I didn''t really know what a shut-in was. I guessed

that they were old people who couldn't get around too

well any more, so people went to them. Like we were


Once we were all together, we began walking up the

street to the first house. We were a chatty group and

I remember us being shushed quite a few times.

After all, we were supposed to surprise them with our

singing, not our giggling. One of us rang the

doorbell and we stood in front of the house, waiting

for the door to open. We were at least halfway

through the first carol before a fragile old woman

managed to open the front door. To me, she looked

more than surprised; she looked stunned. I didn't

understand at first. We were there to bring joy - not

shock! Then she smiled at us with tears in her eyes

and begged us to stay while she got her husband to the door. We let fly with another carol while she made her way back to the open door with a frail old man holding her elbow. He stood by her side and listened to our renditions, smiling from ear to ear, eyes twinkling.

I can't tell you what we sang to whom that night, or

how many houses we visited before finally settling in

for the promised hot chocolate. Call it the magic of

the season, if you want. As soon as that first door

opened, I learned the truth of the old saying about it

being better to give than to receive. No gift I

received that season or any other would be worth more to me than seeing the joy in the eyes of those we

serenaded that night. I never knew that one could

give so much with so little.

As a supporter/volunteer with Adopt A Platoon, I know that by giving even just a little - a card, a letter,

or a small box of treats - you can change a soldier's

day. Please go to and be

matched with a soldier who will be away from his or

her family this holiday season. When he or she opens

what you have sent, it will be a gift just as precious

as our unexpected carols. You don't have to be there

to witness the smile. Trust me, it's there.

Linda Freed