Archive for December, 2011

I wish Santa could whisk us around the world to visit all of our family in the next few weeks. He has a fast enough sleigh, right? Is there seating for six? (Seven if you count Santa). First we’d go all the way to Hawaii… and sit on the beaches with Uncle John. Then, to CA and visit see Linda and Dennis and some cousins. Then away to Arizona to visit Cate and her clan and Riley’s aunti Toni and family. Then, we’d zoom around to the east coast to visit other cousins and relatives. Then, we’d spend a leg of our journey in Calgary with Jessica, Craig and Carson. Lastly, zoom into northern WI to see Grama. We’d make lots of other stops along the way to see friends, too, so don’t feel left out if I didn’t specifically mention you!


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There are lots of things we can spend our money on this time of year: Christmas gifts, decorations, baking supplies, hot chocolate, matching Santa hats, etc. We all make choices on how we are going to spend that money. My family is very conservative when it comes to Christmas. I can’t see buying another toy or another trinket that is going to end up on the playroom floor in a couple of weeks anyway. My kids give us very specific wishes and Santa usually delivers. There are a few other needs or wants addressed and, that’s it. I started to feel bad about that recently, reminiscing about my childhood with mountains of gifts and stockings full of goodies for Christmas Day. I started to feel compelled into the commercialized drone of Christmas – the buying, the wrapping, ensuring you’ve gotten a gift for every person you know, even if you have no idea what to get them… Then I give my head a shake.

This year, my sister gave my head a shake. Just when I was spiraling out of control in my mind with thoughts of what else can I buy Natalie? Did I get enough for James? Why is Taylor so hard to buy for? She sent me an email containing a picture and a simple message: “This is a quick snap of the presents. Crazy! I’ll send a good picture and the list of what we got, too. This is a lucky family.” Lucky family indeed. Jessica was not talking about her family. She was talking about the fourth family that she has adopted from her community at Christmastime to provide for. The fourth time she has reached out to strangers and bought them things to help them feel the thrill of Christmas morning like it was for me as a kid; for her as a kid.

This started four years ago when a home builder that worked with Jessica’s husband Craig sent out a card saying “Rather than send you a gift basket this year, we are sending you $500 to spend on a family in need.” They weren’t sure what to do, but felt empowered by this gift. They discovered that a family friend worked for the family support center in town and started asking questions. Jessica and Craig were set up with a single mom with teenage kids. Jessica and Craig kicked in some of their own money and decided to spoil the kids – they bought iPod touches, movie passes and iTunes gift cards for the kids. For the mom, they picked up grocery store gift cards and gift certificates for a day of pampering at the spa. The feeling of wondering how Christmas morning was for that family has been enough to keep them going back to adopt a family four years in a row.

Jessica and Craig have stopped buy Christmas presents for their family and friends, who don’t need anything. They use that money toward a needy family. They get a list of the family’s needs and a few wants. Jessica said her goal is to buy them as many needs as she can, but make the needs fun. For instance, the family may not have decent bathroom towels, but drying off with a fluffy, soft bath towel in the morning can contribute to a better start to their day! Similarly, Jessica likes to think that with decent pots and pans, families in need may take more pride in their cooking and provide healthier, homemade meals for their family – its fun to use new things! At the same time, its always Jessica’s goal to spoil the kids a little; to put something “cool” in their hands – hoping to also make their parents smile.

You may be thinking that you, too, have meager Christmases at your house; that times are tough and the economy is bad. This may be true. But, do what you can! Join forces with other families to adopt a family; put some change in the Salvation Army’s red kettles as you do your shopping; buy “doubles” of your non-perishables for the Christmas dinner table and donate to your local food shelter; volunteer time if you don’t have extra cash. Do what you can. This year my church is collecting socks for underprivilaged students in our local schools. The feel of a new pair of socks could mean everything to someone who wears only hand-me-downs. Can I afford one extra pack of socks? You bet! Here is a link with some ways you can get involved in Western Wisconsin: Spirit of Christmas – Chippewa Herald.

This is the picture of the Christmas spirit. The spirit of giving, the spirit of thinking of others, the spirit of finding joy in doing good for others. I’ve never expected gifts from people, but I’m so proud not to receive a gift from my sister for Christmas because I know that her heart is ready to explode with joy thinking about her adopted family on Christmas morning! I’m so proud of her!

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