A New Englander turned sunny, warm North Carolinian, I’ve gotten quite used to the warmer winters we enjoy here in the southern states. Our winter gear for the most part stays packed away for days when there is a glimmer of hope for snow and one excited little boy waits to see what will fall from the sky.
Christmas this year was nice and warm, per the usual. My parents visited us from Connecticut and were pleasantly surprised when we had to roll down the car windows as we rode from place to place. I had to remind my son that it was indeed, Winter, and ” YES! You have to put that fleece jacket on if you are going to be on that scooter for two hours!” It seemed easy to forget, even for me.
And then it seems that Mother Nature woke up with a start, remembering her sunny southern states and decided to gift us with a breath of arctic winter. Good morning, Winter! We pulled hats, gloves and thick coats from the bins and closets this morning while we waited for the car to warm up and without a hesitation my son asked, ” Is it going to snow, Mom?” I told him no, reminded him that it is supposed to be cold in the winter (or at the very least colder) and to please go to the bathroom BEFORE he got his coat all zipped up.
Cut to me at the camp drop off and then again at work, listening to everyone I pass comment on how cold it is (I have to admit I joined in on the complaining) and how they had to get out their winter coats and what a pain it was. I am a band-wagoner for the most part, but one word in those comments caught me – coatS. Here we are, complaining about being cold, with our vast array of coats to choose from, our colorful hats and mittens to wear as we drive in our heated cars to and from our heated offices and homes. Man, do we have it bad or what?!?!
There are so many people out there who don’t have a warm coat, hat or mittens. Not even one. There are people out there (yes – like, RIGHT out there) who don’t have a heated car or even a car at all, and there are even those who don’t have a home to cozy up in when this season hits us. Most people just think that the homeless woman you give your change to at the intersection definitely stays in a shelter for the night when it’s freezing – and I think we live in that happy denial state because it’s just easier that way. But in reality, any given night there are 2,000 people just out there on OUR local streets. And the people who are warm in their homes, luckily, but don’t have coats or have to walk outside to the bus stop and wait for an hour while they shiver? It’s more than you think.
So I’m not going to complain about the chill in the air today. I am super lucky – I have ALL the things I need to keep me safe and warm. Most of us do…and it’s up to us to look out for those who don’t.
This time of year, toy stores are jammed with parents trying to score the best toy for their child on Christmas morning. Many of those parents, full of good will, also purchase a toy for their local Toys for Tots bin. But don’t be fooled – just because little five-year-old Johnny wants a bb gun for Christmas doesn’t mean it’s safe – he’ll shoot his eye out!
Thankfully, organizations like WATCH (World Against Toys Causing Harm) post the top ten unsafe toy list every year so that you’ll know if what you run out to buy your child (and any child you happen to donate to) is safe for them to play with. This list does assume you have common sense though, so please leave the bb gun off the five year old’s wish list. Continue reading
We first ran this post last year and we feel the message continues to be timely. Enjoy!
I grew up in a household that celebrates St. Nicholas Day on December 6 every year. The special start to the holiday season is a tradition in Northern Europe to remember St. Nicholas, a fourth century bishop who was renowned for his great kindness and his generous aid to those in distress. The story passed down was that St. Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving and he used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering, and often the gifts were found in stockings left to dry by the fireplace.
This tradition in my family comes from my German heritage, and each year we hung our stockings on the eve of St. Nicholas Day with the hopes of receiving candy, fruit and a few small goodies the next morning – what my brother and I deemed the “official” start to the Christmas season. But my mother had other motivation for that day and I credit her for my philanthropic spirit today. Each year as we dug through our stockings, comparing candy and a new Christmas cassette tape or coloring book, there was also an envelope containing two things: a five dollar bill and a note from St. Nick. That note contained a message of the blessings we had and the duty bestowed upon us to give back in our own way. The instructions? To use that five dollars to better someone else’s life during the holiday season, and even as children, to choose a charity and make our own difference.
I remember my teenage years, getting that money and thinking how stupid it was to give back when I wanted things for myself. One year that five dollars sat in my desk drawer inside its envelope for months upon months because I couldn’t be bothered to figure out where to send it. But looking back, I realize what an amazing lesson my mother taught me, one that she took straight from the original story of St. Nicholas himself. The purpose of the season is not what we can get, but what we can GIVE. To count our own blessings and give to those who could use a few more of their own. I’m so grateful for that lesson as it has truly shaped me into the person I am today. This year, my son will wake up on December 6th to open his stocking, full of candy and a few small gifts and he will find an envelope with a five dollar bill inside waiting for him to start his own journey of giving. I hope that you all will do the same this year as you start your own holiday season and find the joy in giving of yourself to others when they need it most.
Halloween is over. The costumes put away, the candy pillaged from our neighbors and, in my house anyway, soon to be gone as well. This morning my five-year-old sleepily wandered downstairs while I was making lunches and said, “Mom, Halloween is over. When’s Christmas?” I sighed and reminded him that there was a very special holiday in between that he was forgetting, but the lack of “what’s in it for me” associated with Thanksgiving for a child who doesn’t like turkey or football made him roll his eyes and fall back on the couch. Continue reading