By Elvis Wong

Stepping out of the San Diego Airport, I was refreshed by the beautiful panorama of succulent palm trees situated like dominoes stretched across the road in front of me and a breathtaking sunset at the horizon that was quickly eclipsed by a starry night sky.
I left behind this refined city temperament from California and continued to travel south with my group of friends as we conquered hundreds of miles of road and crossed over the Mexican border into Tijuana.
Hours later, our sleepy bodies were awakened at the compound of Francisco and Elva Camacho, the local missionary couple in a small town south of Ensenada. Sleep-deprived from a previous school week of test taking, I was eager for rest.
But to my surprise, we were asked to set up a tent and immediately start working. At first, I was reluctant—already feeling sick and tired, I did not want anything more than to envelop myself in my sleeping bag.
But finally, I began to cut wrapping paper and wrapped hundreds of dolls, boxes of chocolates, soccer balls, and other gifts.
The following day consisted of visiting two colonies which marked the beginning of my short-term missionary trip.
Upon arriving at the first colony, we unloaded all of the benches and tables provided by Francisco and prepared a meal of pozole pollo and enchiladas for the children and their families living in and around the area. A session of lively Christmas music was followed by the meal of the day and ended with a ceremonious gift-giving spectacular.
Despite all of the hard work involved, we were also able to interact with the children and their families; I was drawn towards the energy that the children possessed even though they were living in poorly structured aluminum huts with cardboard roofs, even though their lives are significantly more difficult than those of American children. They still sought happiness.
Ensenada is a city separated by two distinct social classes: one part of the city is blessed with decency and insulated homes while the other is plagued by poverty-stricken colonies of garbage-infested, arid lands that are occupied by loosely thrown together huts.
In America today, we are often blinded by the imposing forces of capitalism and materialism that the holiday season has become so closely associated with receiving rather than giving.
While most of us are consciously thankful during Thanksgiving, these people living in Mexico are thankful every day, thankful for even the little that they have.
Through serving these people, I was able to make a difference in their lives by just bringing them gifts and spending time with them, playing with them, and serving them food. In America, we have Santa Claus. In Ensenada, they have us, people who are willing to provide for them in times of desperation; we are Santa Claus to them.
Not only was I able to make a difference in the lives of the people, but they were also able to make a difference in my life, a difference that I will never forget.