Thursday, December 19, 2013

True Meaning of Christmas

I am probably guiltier than most for being so busy during the holidays that I don't take enough time to reflect and rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas.  With the juggling of business and personal tasks, shopping, baking, decorating, and party planning, I am always on the go.  But knowing that I want to inspire others causes me to make the time to reflect and think about the true meaning of Christmas, from my own spiritual and religious perspective as well as the perspective of reaching out to others.

So in that spirit of Christmas, I found this story. Originally published in 1982, it's not a new story. Whether you are familiar with it or not, I hope you enjoy reading it and it brings you to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

 For the Man Who Hated Christmas

by Nancy W. Gavin

It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas--oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it--overspending... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition--one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

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Have a happy day!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gifts for the Caregiver

November was National Caregivers Month, and Christmas is an especially good time to show your gratitude to those who do so much in the form of caregiving. Rosalynn Carter believed pretty much everyone at some point in their lives is touched by a caregiver:

"There are four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers."
My life has been touched by caregivers at various times.  In years past, we had wonderful caregivers for my parents, and now I am in the caregiver role for my mother-in-law. 

With caregiving prominent in my own life right now, I want to encourage everyone to remember any caregivers currently in your life.  Christmas is a wonderful time to honor them, and give them the most treasured gift of time and care for themselves.

If you are thinking of a gift for a caregiver, consider something that encourages them to refresh, renew and take care of themselves, even if just for a few hours on any given day.

These are some of my special gifts available for caregivers:

Christmas Spa Gift Basket
Our Christmas Spa Gift Basket features Do Not Disturb bath and body products, packaged in elegant holiday silver and purple.
Good Fortune Gift for Men
For the male caregiver, this all natural spa collection also gives back, and comes packaged in a stylish toiletry bag.

This Pamper Me gift collection is also made with all natural bath and body products from France.  Both of the candles in the men's and women's spa gift are handmade soy from Green Daffodil in Michigan.  This women's version also comes packaged in a stylish cosmetic bag.

This deluxe spa gift basket, which we call Indulge and Inspire, is a lovely collection of spa and home products, including bath and body from Homespun Naturals, a relaxing instrumental CD, and an inspiring framed quote from Kindred Hearts.  There are other spa delights in this basket as well.  Read the complete description.

Have a happy day!