Yes indeed, I was part of that mix. Not so much to find the latest deal, but living in a remote area I grab at the opportunity when in "the city" to seek what items we need "back at the ranch" that just aren't available locally. I had been dreading this day, knowing that I would have to skirt around crazily-driven cars at backed-up intersections only to find myself standing in line for what would seem an eternity for one or two items in my hand while others in front of me flaunt their overflowing carts while listening to "The Little Drummer Boy" play over the speaker system for a fourth time that morning.
Okay, maybe I am sounding a bit like the Grinch now.
But in reality, I am not Grinch-like. I love this season. I love (almost) everything about it. Christmas time conjures up all kinds of nostalgia for me. To this day, our family, friends, and neighbors still gather at Mom and Dad's for the Christmas Eve buffet: an enormous spread of food and cheer, gift-exchanging, music, and festive decorations. As a young child, my sister, brother, and I would perform little skits for everyone, or play music or sing. I can still recite the corresponding organ key numbers for "Dreaming of a White Christmas" and "Auld Lange Syne". We don't perform anymore, but the younger of the clan like to belt out a few holiday tunes on the paino or guitar, and the occasional AC/DC song.
In my youth, the butterflies would work overtime in my stomach on Christmas eve. I knew that the sooner I went to sleep the sooner I would wake to find all kinds of toys that Santa had tucked under the tree. There were plenty of chimneys for him to use, and my letters had been mailed to the North Pole ensuring that he would be well-prepared. I was certain I could hear the sleigh bells tinkling as he and his trusty crew of reindeer flew over, Rudolph at the helm of course.
Now that I am older, I still look forward to Christmas (and Solstice!) with great anticipation and excitement. As you age, you appreciate the holidays for different reasons than you did as a child. Now, I find more joy in giving and knowing that I will be spending time with those I love most dearly.
My mom wrote me an email yesterday reminiscing about Christmas past. Like many families, there were financial struggles, but, I never knew it as a kid. The Christmas tree was always overflowing and my sister, brother, and I didn't want for much. It always seemed we had everything we needed. Mom tells of the hours she spent making us handmade clothes and toys because times were so lean, and with tight budgeting she could supplement the handmade items with a couple of material-world toys that we had requested from Santa. I can think back and remember some of the gifts. There were certainly lots of dolls - one that peed and pooped when I fed her, one whose hair could "grow", the beauty-school head that I could I could glam-up, Little Red Riding Hood, and too many Barbies to count, all with high-end runway-type outfits. But what Mom would probably be amazed about is that the items I hold most dear from Christmas' past are the little beanie baby doll she made and the big stuffed pink turtle. I remember toting those two items to school a number of times.
I have lived a truly blessed life. I always had a roof over my head, warm clothes, food, family that loved me, beautiful holiday memories, and material items that I know many in this world don't or won't ever have an opportunity to experience.
I teach in a public school, in a remote, rural area where there are more of those who "need" than those who "have". I know my students, and I know which ones haven't been blessed as I was, or as I am. I know that children, regardless of income class, believe in Santa and expect that he will travel from the North Pole on Chritmas to deliver them their dreams. And I know that some students will be more silent than others as kids return from holiday break to show-off their new toys and talk about what goodies Santa delivered to them.
I imagine that most people who read my blog are kind, nurturing souls who are already helping-out others. Given the economy of late, I know it can be a lot to ask. Some folks may not be able to extend themselves financially, but are able to help out with time and volunteering. If you are able to help out, with a toy or in some other financial capacity, a great place to start is a school. Teachers know of lots of little boys and girls who could benefit from the generosity of another. Give your local school a call and ask if there is an item(s) that you can pick-up that will make a child's Christmas morning a little bit brighter. If not a school, there are plenty of children's homes/residential facilities that could use some goodwill as well.
It is a heart-opening experience to help another family who is less-fortunate then yourself. Even though the post-Thanksgiving crowd wanted to flare my Grinch side, my heart, like the Grinch's heart, grew and grew while I picked out toys and art supplies for the little boy who I know would have nothing under the tree (and probably not even a tree) except for what I will provide.
My parents are hosting the annual "cousins" Christmas party in a couple weeks. They usually have a "Yankee Swap" and we all know what kinds of gifts show up in those gift-giving games! This year, though, at my sister's suggestion, party-goers will be asked to draw names, then buy a toy that they feel represents that person. The toys will then be donated to a charity or school. Fabulous!
There are lots of ways to "give" this holiday season (and any season!). If you haven't already made your plan to help-out another, make it a goal to begin now. Whether it is a donation of time, money, or gifts, "tis the season". Perhaps you will help at a local shelter or food bank, be a secret-santa for a school-aged child, pay an out-0f-work neightbors electric bill, or volunteer at the local hospital's children's ward. It's all beautiful - and it feels great!
Start the giving now and feel your heart grow...and grow...and GROW.