Thursday, December 26, 2013

what do you want on your tombstone?

One of the traditions that Charlie brings to our family, "English Crackers", is a tradition that his family had as he was growing up. A tradition which he believes extends to his mother's parents and was likely picked up during the time that she lived, as a young girl, with her family in England during the 1940's.  English Crackers, which are also known as "poppers" can be bought just about anywhere, these days.  You can open them, on your own, or you can share the fun and have someone hold one end - while you hold the other end - and pull the little paper tab inside which makes a loud POP!


Inside the crackers are a paper crown, small toy, and usually some kind of joke.  The joke that was inside one of our crackers on Christmas Eve queried, "What is Good King Wenceslas' favorite kind of pizza?" The answer, "Deep pan crust and even."  The children, who know all the words to "Good King Wenceslas" thought this was hilarious and now count this among one of their favorite jokes.

Today, the day after Christmas, is the Feast of St. Stephen which Good King Wenceslas was looking out upon, when the snow was deep and crisp and even. Many times today, we've listened to the song and we've talked about what it means to bless the poor and in turn, receiving blessing yourself.

Yesterday, as I was reading the newspaper, this story about a girl named Christmas who lives in a local homeless shelter really pulled at my heart. She is one of 512 children that live at this shelter, and she received one present for Christmas … which she couldn't even use because she lacks a refrigerator. The first thought that popped in to my mind is how I'd like to buy her an easel and enough paints to last her childhood. Then the logistics of doing such a thing - and the complications of not bringing gifts for the other 511 children at the shelter struck me. Still all day yesterday and again today, as we played with all the new toys the children received for Christmas, and enjoyed a seemingly endless supply of wonderful food, and warmed our bodies and souls next to a raging fire, and inhaled the smells and sights of Christmas … I can't stop thinking of those less fortunate. I think of those who have no family, no home, no place to call their own. And I think of the children whose families don't have the means to buy them something as simple as a coloring book.

In addition to our tradition of English Crackers, one of our traditions is to donate toys to the Toys for Tots program.  It brings us immeasurable joy (OK, so Henry's getting there)...


… to pick out toys and bring them to the Fire House, where we know they'll be donated to children in need.  But I really ache to do more and am trying to find a local organization, similar to the Hilarious Givers, who took me to Mexico - five four years ago this week, and opened my eyes to the extreme poverty that exists just south of the US border.  Our children are all at an age where I'd like for them to have more exposure to that same kind of person-to-person experience which has had such a profound impact on me.  This is the photo montage that I put together following that trip in 2009 and which I've posted every year since:

As a mother, I believe the most important gift I can give my children, is the gift of compassion.  There is so much need in this world and we really don't have to look very far to see where we can bring light. Maybe it's stopping by to say hello to the elderly neighbors who are alone for Christmas. Or inviting the child at school who is new to this area over for a play date.  Or maybe it's raiding our piggy banks and doing a spontaneous drive-by a homeless shelter and dropping off coloring books and crayons for all the little kids.  Because at the risk of sounding selfish, it really is a blessing when you can bless others.

PS: In regards to the title of this post, who remembers Tombstone frozen pizzas and those witty commercials, "What do you want on your tombstone?" And the people would reply, "Pepperoni and mushrooms!" I thought it was fitting seeing as this started out with how Good King Wenceslas likes his pizza, and as I was writing this, thought about what's important in life and what I hope to accomplish in whatever time I have here.   On a different note, have I mentioned how awesome it is to be on vacation and not have my mind consumed with WORK and things that have little relevance to helping children in homeless shelters? Although, this photo which I took a few weeks ago of the 200+ bicycles that my company donated (and my co-workers helped to assemble) for needy children in the area…


Certainly makes me feel good about working with such a great organization.