Its almost that time again. The malls are draped with holiday cheer and everyone is in some way looking ahead to the big holiday, Christmas! While most of us find it exciting and happy, there are many who have suffered some personal tragedy recently, or even in years past that make this special time a reminder of sad times. The economy itself makes it hard to be happy if you are one of those unfortunates who perhaps lost your home, or are just finding it hard to meet the bills, let alone find extra cash to make the holidays what you would like them to be. I sincerely hope that none of you find yourselves in such circumstances.
There are of course many venues to help the less fortunate. I am a member of the Parrotheads, an organization backed by Jimmy Buffet. We hold regular fund raisers where we gather food and clothes for our local food bank and various store houses for collecting articles for those in need. In September we held a "Corn Hole" tournament and collected over $3000.00 for the Wounded Warrior project. We have held benefits for local cancer victims, accident victims, those who lost their home in a fire, and many other worthy causes. Our next meeting will be a big push for help for the needy for Christmas. There is no greater sense of self worth than that of helping others. The knowledge that someone will have a better Christmas, a meal, a warm coat, whatever we can give them, is what puts our own problems in perspective.
And no matter what our station in life, we all have our own problems. At this busy time I am traveling 350 miles twice a week to help my sister who had a terrible accident 2 weeks ago. I can't afford the gas, the hotel rooms, the meals out, but we do what we have to do. I'm sure my Christmas budget will suffer, but what is Christmas all about except giving? My grand kids may not understand the reduced number of packages under the tree, but I'll use this as a lesson for them, a lesson in giving and learning priorities.
As for gifts, well, I try to make gifts meaningful. After my husband died, I had no idea what I could get for my mother-in-law that would mean something. Finally I made a gift that she treasures. I took an old shirt that had belonged to my husband and made a pillow out of it. She sleeps with it every night and keeps it nearby all the time.
For a dear friend who had lost her husband that summer, I found a picture in my collection of the two of them on a trip we had shared, one that was just another in the pile of photos we all take and store in a shoe box for "some day". I put it in a simple frame and she was thrilled and touched to have this unknown memory on a day that was especially hard, lonely for those of us who must go on.
I know its hard not to get caught up in the spirit of finding that thing your loved one "wants". But sometimes its the thing they didn't know they wanted that means the most. I'm getting my granddaughter an electric can opener, not the most elegant gift for sure, but we will share a laugh when she opens it and remembers this past Thanksgiving. As a young bride, it was her first experience hosting the family dinner and her cheap manual can opener broke. We finally found one of the guys with a good old Swiss Army knife with a camp can opener and managed to get all the cans opened. Every time she opens a can, she will smile and remember. Those memories are priceless.
My all time favorite gift was a coffee pot. I was maybe six that year and I came from a poor family. There weren't many gifts, but among them was a tiny child's coffee pot with 6 tiny cups. I can remember feeling like a grand hostess as I served the adults their tiny cups of coffee over and over and over. . .
Christmas is so many things, giving, getting, shopping, memories, fun, cheer, and too often, stress. For me, my stress is reduced by happy memories and giving what I can. My silly little coffee pot always brings a smile, and as I eat my wonderful Christmas dinner, the thought that someone out there is enjoying a good meal or warmer in a donated coat brings me joy. While we would all like to have the HGTV version of Christmas, most of us will have to settle for what we can afford. And warm memories can be so inexpensive!
Merry Christmas to all of you!