The Gift of Giving

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Ellen Leonard simply says of her family holiday tradition of 16 years: “Wow! To see that smile on their faces is amazing”.
Bob Davidson, and his wife, Ellen Leonard, believe Christmas is a time of giving. Their family have fused Catholic and Jewish traditions into this holiday, and lovingly spread Christmas cheer their own special way each year. Ellen says of her “blended” family: “We are mixed. I’m Jewish, and my husband Bob, is Catholic. We are eclectic.”
Ellen Leonard, a doctor who specializes in Pediatric Rehabilitation, requests to work on Christmas each year. Being Jewish, Ellen didn’t observe Christmas like others. It wasn’t about the material things; Christmas was a time of giving.
Their first year, the Leonard-Davidson family decided they would deliver gingerbread cookies (shaped like the state of Texas) to patients and nurses in the hospital where Ellen was working on Christmas. After realizing most of the patients were diabetic, the family decided to re-think their “giving” ideas. With a little help from macaroni noodles, the cookies were transformed into ornaments for hanging- their ornament tradition was then born.
Overwhelmed with the response, the Leonard-Davidson family began to plan bigger. With a head count of over 100 patients and nurses, Ellen found herself making multiple trips to surrounding Michaels stores to find more wooden ornaments to paint and decorate for Christmas. Luckily, Kim’s Wood, an online wood restoration and finishing shop had many beautifully hand crafted wooden ornaments that Ellen knew would be perfect. Kim’s Wood even donated double the amount she ordered due to a previous shortage in her shipment so she too could be part of the tradition, and praised the family for their benevolent deeds.
The news of their endeavor spread the Christmas cheer to various communities of people. Even kids doing service hours would show up to paint ornaments for patients and medical staff working on Christmas. Despite weather conditions, family, friends, community members, and kids would gather around the tarps on the ground to paint ornaments. Christmas morning the ornaments would be delivered, and the family would have a nice breakfast at Denny’s. “It became our tradition”, Ellen says.
“There are no rules. Someone might take two hours to paint an ornament or they might just throw some glitter on it. The art and design that these individuals make, it’s just wow!” Bob says. “You won’t find just plain green and red Santas, there might be an orange Santa, or even a UT and A&M one. The love that goes into each one is amazing,” Bob says.
When asked how families can get involved, Ellen told us, “You can bake cookies and other goodies for the firefighters, paint ornaments and walk over to your nearest nursing home. There is always a way to spread the gift of giving. So many people have to work on Christmas, why not put a smile on their faces and show them you care.”

A big thank you to the Leonard-Davidson family, which includes, Bob Davidson, Ellen Leonard, and daughters Arianna Davidson, and Micah Leonard.

“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
– Dr. Seuss

Kristin Mears is a San Antonio freelance writer, wife, and mother to two boys, and one on the way.

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