This Advent season, local Orthodox Communities across the country have been partnering with FOCUS to share their blessings. In Minnesota, moving to a new home provides the growing FOCUS Center a great opportunity to meet new neighbors and share in the joy of the holidays. At FOCUS Pittsburgh, neighborhood blocks become an extended family, where neighbors offer encouragement and build one another up in times of trauma, vulnerability and need. In Detroit and West Central PA, volunteers rally around the needs of local children by packing weekend meals kids who would otherwise face food-insecurity.

Aside from these programs, and more, happening at our FOCUS Centers, FOCUS has been busy serving this winter in new communities! Throughout Washington DC, NYC, Bridgeport, Chicago, and San Francisco, a pan-Orthodox effort has been made to connect with and serve neighbors who are homeless and in need.

Volunteers from each location have been hard at work this Advent Season filling and delivering nearly 1000 totes (aka “St. Nicholas Sacks”) stuffed with hygiene kits, snacks, toys and games to individuals, families, and children. In the spirit of the works of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker himself, FOCUS encourages all to worship God through offering selfless giving and sacrificial love.

The life of St. Nicholas offers us wisdom we can use to guide our own lives. Three lessons that stand out to us at FOCUS after reading a summary of his life are: 1) be kind-hearted, 2) distribute all your inheritance to the poor, and 3) do good deeds in secret.

Be Kind-Hearted

Kindness is a virtue. In order to serve each other, and treat others in a Christian way, we must be kind to each other! In today’s world, it’s more common to ignore people than be kind to them! How many times have you been out running errands, or on your commute to work and turned to a cold heart, instead of a kind heart, to get through it? We should strive to be kind-hearted every day and see every moment as an opportunity to let love radiate from our hearts to our surroundings!

Distribute Your Inheritance to The Poor

Jesus expects us to give up everything we have and follow him. If we want to inherit eternal life, we must give up our inheritance on earth. Today, it is easy to live in a bubble of security and ignore or even forget that there are people in need right outside our doors. Our society values “earning” what you have, and doesn’t trust the idea of giving without expecting anything in return. It’s our responsibility to fight this notion, and give freely to one another in times of luxury and in times of need.

Do Good Deeds in Secret

Of all of St. Nicholas’ lessons, this one may be the hardest! One thing humans like to do in this day in age is talk about ourselves. We can do it 24 hours a day with a live audience that grants positive reinforcement on various social media platforms. When we do good deeds, we want to share them – but the bible tells us to not let the left hand know what the right is doing, and to keep our charitable deeds in secret. When we give and say nothing, we allow our gift to truly serve God instead of ourselves.

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