Aaron Cannon took down the Christmas tree at High Street Unitarian Universalist Church last Sunday.
It did not have to be hauled off to the chipper or dragged to the curb for the trash man. It is an artificial tree, so it was placed near the pew under the stained glass window in the sanctuary.
The tree will be packed away in storage until next Christmas, which will be here before you know it, since some stores will remind us there are only 349 shopping days left.
This is no ordinary tree. It never has been. The congregation spent five weeks decorating it. Every Sunday morning something new would be hanging from its branches.
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There were no ornaments. Although it might not have sparkled like some trees, it truly was a point of light.
For the past 20 or so years -- church members aren’t precise on the exact date -- the tree has been the best-dressed in the city for the holidays.
Every Christmas, it is decked out with scarves, stocking caps, gloves and, yes, even a few pairs of underwear.
Folks bring articles of clothing, both new and used, and hang them on the tree. They leave heavier items, like coats and sweaters, beneath it.
Then, after Christmas, the tree gives the world the shirt off its back.
Aaron left it up for an extra week this year, watching it acquire extra layers of clothing in its final days.
On Saturday afternoon, Aaron and his two sons -- Aiden, 10, and 7-year-old Waker -- will be joined by the youth of the church on a local mission trip. They will take the donations to Loaves and Fishes, a downtown ministry that offers food, clothing and other services to the city’s homeless, poor and downtrodden. They will distribute the clothes from 2 to 4 p.m.
For Aaron and his mother, Carol Lucas, this is much more than church outreach. It is personal. It is a way to honor the memory of a man who meant so much to both of them. They pay tribute by doing what he loved -- helping others.
For much of its life, it was simply known as the “Sock and Mitten” tree. But when Don Lucas died seven years ago this month, it was renamed the Don Lucas Memorial Mitten Tree.
At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, Don was a sequoia of a man, a gentle giant with a heart to match. He was a leader in the church, a member of the social responsibility committee. He worked on projects with Rebuilding Macon. He delivered clothes and canned goods to Loaves and Fishes. He was active in the Back Door Kitchen, where members of several congregations in Macon feed lunch to the hungry on weekends in the Mulberry Street Alley behind Christ Episcopal Church.
Carol was a single mom with three children when she met Don, who worked at Engelhard Kaolin. They came together through the Macon Jaycees and married in 1985, the same year they first walked through the doors of High Street Unitarian Universalist Church. They were welcomed by perhaps the most diverse congregation in the city.
The first time they visited happened to be “April Fools’ Sunday.” They had no idea it was a tradition for church members to dress in costumes and engage in some unconventional but reverent revelry. They fit right in, and Don enjoyed the spirit of it. Folks still talk about the year he used a blow torch to light the chalice.
The mitten tree became his passion, too. Aaron took over as coordinator three years ago, following in the footsteps of his late stepfather. It is a ministry he said “means the world to me because it meant so much to him.”
It may no longer look like Christmas in the corner of the High Street sanctuary, but the fruits of the giving tree are a reminder that the spirit of the season can stay with us.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.