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Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Year and a Great Time to Recommit to Writing!

Getting through the Holidays was a challenge.  It was greatly enhanced by the loving kindness of several individuals who proved to be the greatest of heroes to my children and to the entire family.  Our year in 2011 was pretty stressful, but no more than other individuals who were faced with similar circumstances.  We weathered frequent job changes, financial struggles, and a serious car accident that involved our vehicle getting totalled and me ending up with medical expenses and therapy to heal the damage.   Through it all I found great comfort as I read my Face Book page. (I know...I should have gone immediately to my Bible as well, but that came later.  See...good old fashioned Catholic confession at work here:)  Kind words were offered and I realized how much other friends and family members were dealing with in their own lives.

I am usually a fairly optimistic individual and rely on my faith to get me through hardships.  I have to admit that this time around it was especially trying and I found myself feeling angry and hopeless.  So I prayed harder... even when I didn't think it was possible to pray any more.  Right before Thanksgiving I received a call from my daughter's 4th grade teacher.  She informed me that our name had been selected to receive a Thanksgiving basket.  She explained that each year one student's family gave a basket to another family.  The teacher put each child's name in a hat and drew my daughter's name.  I nearly cried. 

The phone call came at a perfect time as I was becoming quite "creative" with my meal planning.  I arranged to pick up the gift.  It was a very humbling experience to enter the classroom that day.  I gave the teacher a hug and expressed my gratitude.  I returned home and unpacked the bounty of groceries.  An envelope was inside one of the bags of food.  I opened the envelope to find a wonderful Thanksgiving card from the family.  When I opened the card, a Publix (grocery store) gift card was inside.  I was overwhelmed with emotion at the thought of some one's generosity in our time of need.  I immediately sat down to write Thank You notes for the family and the teacher.  I gave them to my daughter to return the next day.

December brought concerns about how we would handle Christmas this year.  I knew that the children's grandparents would have gifts for them.  However, as each child recited their list of wishes,  I grew more and more anxious.  I was very honest with my children that things were financially tight, and that I could not guarantee much of their requests.  We talked about family togetherness and I promised that we would still keep our yearly tradition of making cut -out sugar cookies for Santa.  We discussed the true meaning of Christmas and how much fun they would have playing with their cousins at Grandma's and Grandpa's house.  I also held them and explained that I was looking forward to attending the Children's Christmas Eve Mass with them at our church.  They were amazingly understanding and immediately started thinking about what they could make for each other and other family members.

Let's face it...Kids are Kids and they looked forward to those shiny, wrapped presents under the tree and stockings filled with Dollar Tree Treasures.  They also hoped to offer something to each other and their family members.  Shortly after the Thanksgiving Break, my daughter came home and presented me with an envelope and a smile on her face.  I opened the envelope and read the enclosed letter.  My child had been selected to participate in the "Shop with a Hero" day.   I was asked to complete a "Wish List" that included their sizes, most urgent needs, and fun items if available.  When I sat down to check my son's homework folder, I discovered that he also had a letter.  Appreciation and relief enveloped me.

I listed the children's most urgent needs first.  They had grown since the beginning of school and were in need of pants, winter shirts, shoes, socks, and underwear.  My daughter also desperately needed a winter coat.   I explained the process of  how their shopping trip would mostly go toward clothing and maybe a fun item if possible.  They were overjoyed and very appreciative.  We returned the wish lists and excitedly waited for their shopping day.  The school counselors were excellent as they responded to my concerns regarding supervision of the children for the shopping day.  I received a letter notifying me that my children would be transported by a uniformed driver, accompanied by the counselors, and provided with supervision throughout the day.  A school counselor even called me the day of the trip to make sure I was aware of the activities and comfortable with the trip.  I assured her that I appreciated the call.

I picked the children up from school that day and was greeted by the counselors.  They helped load two huge bags of gifts into our vehicle.  I was amazed at the amount they allowed each child to select.  I gave hugs to each counselor and let them know how much the trip meant to our children and to our family.  It was a reward in itself when they commented on how well my children behaved.  The children excitedly reported to me on their adventure with the "Community Heroes"  assigned to help them select their presents.  All the way home they laughed and expressed their happiness at the attention, caring, and companionship they had experienced.  My heart swelled with joy.

My daughter shopped with two police officers (one female and one male) who guided her through Wal Mart as she selected the items on her list. My son shopped with a military service member.  Both were treated to Chick-fil-A breakfast and McDonald's for lunch.  To my surprise, they received everything on their list of wishes, including games and toys.  However, the children not only received "things" that day.  They received something far more valuable.  Hope had been restored.  The Community Heroes gave of themselves in ways where I could not, and for that I will be forever grateful.  My children will always have this very special Christmas memory, and I hope it will one day inspire them to do the same for others who are in our situation.  For my part, I too will return the blessings when our circumstances change...and I am certain that changes will happen by the grace of God.

Thank You to all of you readers who gave of yourselves this Christmas.  Whether through time, talents, or treasures, your impact on the lives you touched were positively affected.  You may not always see the results of your efforts, but rest assured the blessing were well received, and you are appreciated.  I am blessed to have wonderful family and friends, and hope everyone will have a wonderful, healthy, and safe New Year!