Local essay-contest winners (and artists!) school us on the spirit of giving

Manny Avila’s visual take on Stacey Dallas Johnston’s beautiful essay about her daughter reminds us that the holidays are about more than peanut brittle.
Manny Avila

Earlier this month, the Weekly teamed up with First Friday to ask Las Vegans what giving means to them. These essays, submitted in adult’s and children’s categories, not only won publication in the Weekly, original illustrations by local artists and gifts from First Friday sponsors, they reminded us what the holiday season is all about.

Adult's Contest

The Greatest Gift by Stacey Dallas Johnston; illustration by Manny Avila

Giving birth, now that is what I call giving.

Though she may not thank me daily for creating her, I felt pretty awesome for giving my child a life and my husband a human for Christmas 2003. (He’s always hard to shop for, but I think I did all right that holiday season.) Yet, being born in December comes with its own unique circumstances. For all those Christmas babies out there who have to share their big day with possibly the most famous person ever, remember—you, too, are a gift.

At least, that’s what I was told as a kid. My birthday is three days prior to Christmas. Even though I enjoyed the dual presents, the birthday cake with Santa Claus on it and birthday gifts wrapped in Christmas paper, as a kid, it was hard to understand why my December birthday wasn’t as important or fun as those June birthdays.

Consequently, I vowed never to have a child in December. It just wasn’t going to happen ... until it did. Due date: December 20, 2003. The poor thing. I would have to dedicate my life as a mother to throwing elaborate this-is-a-birthday-and-not-a-Christmas-party parties and letting her know that it’s okay to have a day to be selfish and spoiled.

My daughter was born five days early on December 15, 2003, and she was the greatest gift I have ever received. She was perfect and wonderful and perfect. She trumped Christmas trees, jingle bells, presents, snow, birthday cake, parties and everything else. She brought my life into perspective, and when I turned 29 a week after her birth, I couldn’t have cared less if there were presents, or cake or Santa Claus.

My daughter taught me about priority, sacrifice and selflessness. I have given her everything I know to give so her world, not just her birthday, is one of love, laughter and importance. And my daughter has given me an internal satisfaction, a definitive purpose in my life. We may have to share our birthdays with sugar cookies and tinsel, but every year she knows how special she is, and I know that no gift could match the one I got in 2003.

These days, December is my favorite month. It’s when we give of ourselves, give to others and give thought to that for which we are thankful. Every December I am reminded that toys break, sweaters unravel, CD’s scratch and electronics break, but family is forever.

Children's Contest

Bring Joy by Camila Brooks, 12; illustration by John Ramirez

Giving means the sky is visible by watching every constellation. Giving to others not only means helping, but it means bringing joy to everyone that surrounds you. I enjoy every moment of looking at those smiles that people get when you comfort them. Just by saying one little word you can make a person’s day.

​Think about the homeless. They don’t have a job; all they have are empty stomachs, so why don’t we just apply the beauty of giving? Maybe you can give them a sandwich, or just a smile, so those who suffer can have the marvelous day everyone deserves. Money doesn’t buy happiness, friends do. Support, care and love are the main reasons I write this for you. Love is never rude or jealous; it is compassionate and patient, which means if everyone starts giving, affection will be your journey ahead. Think about your path; what is it leading to? Are you helping, supporting, donating and bringing bliss to your surroundings?

Giving not only begins with me, it starts with inspiration. Inspiration is about preparing yourself for the future. It does not matter who you are, your age, or your size, what matters is what’s inside of your heart. Make your family laugh and you will agree with me. The beauty of giving is more than four words; it is the start of a corridor leading to a heaven that is full of tears caused by joy, love and admiration.

​Bring compassion to friends, neighbors and families. Let the world get together and create a society of giving—a community with no bitterness or complaints, but a community with love and decisions that lead to a wish. If you are thankful for others, you will receive thanks in exchange. If you are reading this with delight and cheerfulness, of course, what you will receive back is a lovely little saying. Here it goes:

What goes around comes back around. I believe if we all reunite and make a better place, what we give and supply will always come back to us. Help the hunger in our universe; help the homeless in our streets; but most importantly, help yourself become the person you wish to be.


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