Sharing the Christmas spirit

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A few hours after the sun rises Dec. 4, parking lots along U.S. 31 in Alabaster will begin filling up with dozens of hay-filled trailers, fire trucks, Santa-themed floats and hundreds of bags of candy.

When I was growing up in Shelby County, there were a few events that defined the Christmas season every year: the tree lighting ceremony in Pelham and the Helena and Alabaster Christmas parades.

Nearly every year, I would participate in the events by riding on a Cub Scout-sponsored float, marching in the school band or just watching from the roadside. My brother, Troy, and I would always return from these events with bags full of candy and smiles on our faces.

As far as Christmas events in Shelby County go, Alabaster definitely has the largest. It takes a group of Alabaster Parks and Recreation Department and Beautification Board volunteers several weeks to coordinate the more than two-hour long parade each year.

On the morning of the parade, the volunteers commandeer parking lots from the Keystone Plaza shopping center to the LifeSouth Community Blood Center near Shelby Baptist Medical Center, and organize more than 100 floats, trailers and vehicles before they enter the parade route.

Once the parade begins, spectators are treated to a shower of candy, marching bands blaring Christmas music, community figures riding in convertibles and vehicles of all kinds from fire trucks to buses.

The event will definitely put you in the Christmas spirit, but to some of our neighbors, it may mean more than that.

With the economy the way it is now, a lot of people in Alabaster are struggling to keep their families fed, much less purchase Christmas gifts for their children.

“You never know what people are going through. Little things can mean a lot to those who don’t have a lot of money,” Alabaster Mayor David Frings told me earlier this week. “For a lot of people in our city, a parade and some candy may be the only thing they get this Christmas.”

When I heard him say that, it really hit home for me. Most of us are able to fill the spaces under our Christmas trees with boxes full of high-dollar presents every year, and it’s easy for us to take that for granted.

You never know what people are going through. Your neighbors could be struggling to keep their house. Your best friends could be losing sleep because they will not be able to give their children anything on Christmas morning.

This holiday season, take some time out of your day to pray for those in need. A smile and a kind word to a stranger could go a long way for those who may not get anything else for Christmas.

Better yet, contact one of our great local non-profit organizations, such as the United Way or Salvation Army, and ask what you can do to help. Sometimes, helping others is the best present you can give yourself.