I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Mostly, it stems from the approaching holidays, Christmas to be specific. Things I’ve read, emails I’ve received and encounters I’ve made have recently have caused me to do a lot of reflecting, mostly at night when I should be asleep. I’ll try to sort it all out.
I love Christmastime…the general feeling in the air of “peace on earth, good will toward men” no matter what your religious traditions, the music, candlelight services at church, the snow, the lights, the connecting and reconnecting with family and friends, holiday meals, baking Christmas cookies. Though it’s not the most important holiday on the Christian calendar, it is indeed a most wonderful time of year. I look forward to pulling out the decorations for the house. The annual lunch with a dozen or so moms all of whom had kids that went to Rochester Central Lutheran School. None of us have kids there any more, but each year in December we get together at one home for lunch, go around the table and tell what the past year has brought: job changes, kids getting married, becoming grandparents, losing parents, losing spouses. But more and more each year, and this year in particular, I just don’t look forward to all the commercialism, the trying to out-gift others, when I’m not sure we even know why we’re buying all this stuff. The economy is in rough shape, it’s a tough job market, the stock market is in the tank. There are so many people in need, lacking the basic necessities of life. I just don’t feel like wandering the crowded malls looking for “stuff” to buy that none of us needs, feeling like I have to keep going until I find something, anything, for everyone on “the list”. I just can’t do it one more year. This year, I’m going to do things differently. I’ll back up…
Community Food Response is a local organization that gathers up leftover food from restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals, etc. that is close to the sell by date or is extra, re-packages it and then gives it out to people in need. On Monday when I was volunteering, there was someone I knew in line. We did not make eye contact. I’ll call her M. She used to come to the Y and she struggles with mental illness. (She’d been interviewed by a local TV station, so that is public knowledge.) She would walk on the treadmill with her big radio headset on and was always very quiet. But I knew her name and would always greet her and exchange pleasantries. I still see her out walking outside with her headset on when I’m running and always stop and say hi. She always has a big “Hi, Renee!” for me. I always feel better for having stopped, for even a brief moment. People in need, in food lines, are not always anonymous faces. There but by the grace of God go I. I am so blessed. I want for nothing.
My son Eric is studying abroad this semester. I’d encouraged him to keep a journal of his time in Spain. When you’re young, and your memory is still good, you think the memories will live forever. Well, they don’t. I received an email from Eric recently. He’s started journaling and now wishes he’d started a lot earlier. While composing one entry, he started writing about his happiest childhood memories with me and decided he’d share them with me as well. “Going to the library on your days off, and going to the special desk for videos to be put in their cases. I loved this.” “Filling up that old plastic swimming pool, and waiting for the water to get warm in the summer sun.” “I remember licking chocolate off of the cooking beaters when you would cook something.” “Multiple Timberwolves games.” (My memory: I remember how steeply the seating rises in the Target Center, sitting in the nosebleed section and feeling like if we stumbled, we’d never stop rolling. And Eric being so proud of his free (cheap-o) KG jersey that was a giveaway one game.) “However, the best memory was the first Twins game I ever went to, and you brought me.” He remembers who they played, seeing Kirby run out on the field, where we sat, what he ate. Just made me tear up to read this stuff. Simple things, but memories that stayed with him. Little happenings do make an impact it seems. I was so glad he shared with me. And I noted that it wasn’t “material things” or “objects” that had the biggest impact on him.
This brings me back to Christmas, and wanting to do things differently this year. And not spend a ton of money. None of us needs anything. What type of memory does some random video game or piece of clothing, or whatever, leave with us after a couple of years? Virtually none. So, what will I do differently? Here are my ideas. (Don’t worry, my kids don’t read this.)
For the boys: Each year since they’ve been born, I’ve bought them each an ornament for the tree so that when they are out on their own, they’ll at least have a few things for their own tree. That tradition will continue. But for something special, I’ve decided I’m going to make them each a book or file of favorite family recipes and notes about each recipe. Eric graduates college this year and Matt lives off-campus and theoretically cooks for himself. ;-) I made them each a scrapbook of their childhood for high school graduation, and this will be similar but will be recipes and memories. (I still remember Matt sitting on the kitchen counter watching the beaters whirl through cake batter, decorating cookies, …) I hope they like it.
For my dad and step-mom: This one is going to be tough. Emotional. Norwegian Lutherans don’t have the best reputation for sharing feelings and that holds true in our family as well. I lost my mom in a car accident when I was age 11. I am the oldest child of 3. Very tough time. Eight years later my dad married a wonderful woman, my step-mom. I love them both dearly. And I should tell them both how much, and how much they mean to me and my family. I should share as Eric has done with me. I’m going to do that in letters to each of them. (I wrote letters to my family members before having my pancreas surgery and they were only to be opened should I not survive the surgery. They’re still here at home. I think memories, hopes and dreams, and love should be shared while we’re alive. I’m getting teary just writing this.)
For some “angels among us”: There are so many people around who do so many good deeds, unselfishly, for others. I know of a few. I will make them each something, probably a little wall quilt, as my small way of saying “you are appreciated and thank you for all you do”. They will be totally unexpected gifts. Those can be the very best kind to give.
Well, that’s what I’ve worked out thus far. And I’m excited to get busy. I had these ideas formulated late Monday night, when I should have been sleeping, and then I was too excited to sleep. The money that I otherwise would have spent on more expensive gifts will go to charity where it has the potential to really make a difference in someone's life.
I was recently reminded in something I read of a song from the 70’s called Pass It On. Here are the first few bars:
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
I have the spark. I’m anxious to get going.