New York

Rediscovering New York: Found – The Christmas Spirit

Pastor David Shinault and members of the Westside Church in NYC

Holding a present they wrapped for me, Pastor David Shinault (far left) and members of the Westside Church taking time out of their busy lives to bring a little sunshine into ours.

The Christmas spirit, real Christmas spirit—not the commercialized lets-pretend-we-care-for-others-while-we-make-a-buck kind of Christmas spirit—is alive and well on 72nd Street.

Over the last two weekend, in the bitter cold, Pastor David Shinault and members of the nearby West Side Church have wrapped presents for hundreds of lucky shoppers outside of the subway station at Broadway and 72nd Street. I passed the makeshift wrapping station a few times running my errands but I didn’t give it much thought to be honest. I saw the “Free Gift Wrapping” copy on the signs but as I walked by I remember thinking, I wonder what they want? I’m pretty cynical sometimes.


Tonight when I came out of the subway I saw a different sign—one that I missed—one that included the phrase, “No Catch and No Donations.” Yeah, that stopped me in my tracks. No catch? No donations taken? When does that ever happen? (I told you, I can be cynical).

The crowd thinned at the table and I hung around a bit to get a better look.

I watched as harried New Yorkers breathed a sigh of relief as they handed over their newly bought gifts to be wrapped: one of many tasks taken off their plate during a crazy holiday season. A moment to breathe, a second to chit-chat with a friendly face across the table who wants nothing else but to lend a helping hand.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked, feeling a bit like the Grinch for even asking the question. The gist was simple: they wanted to connect with the community. A woman bundled up behind the table said, and I am paraphrasing a bit, “We wanted to do something nice. Something to make people happy; bring a little love into the world. Maybe we’ll inspire people to pay it forward.”


Yep.. I must be the Grinch because just like in the Dr. Seuss tale, my little, cynical heart grew.


For the first time this year it actually felt like Christmas.


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17 replies »

  1. Thank you for the article! It was a pleasure to meet you! We are on our way back to Tennessee now but were excited to be able to join west side ministries to share some Christmas cheer with New York! Sonya and Dave

  2. It was a great pleasure to meet you yesterday, Susan! I was one of the volunteers you met (that’s me in the Yankees hat, a Nashville, Tennessean, visiting NYC!) Although not a member of the church Pastor Dave and his wife Jewel have started, I have known them for several years, and they are the real deal. The Upper West Side, specifically the W 72nd Street area, truly is blessed to have them as neighbors. Thanks again for sharing the story about their ministry’s Christmas outreach. I can tell you, the experience in seeing people’s faces, serving and visiting with them, definitely has made my Christmas merry and bright! Merry Christmas to you!

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