Saturday, December 25, 2010

Kenzie ringing bell for Salvation Army

Sam ringing bell for Salvation Army

Sacrifice, not entitlement

I was never more proud of my wife and kids than I was this week when we all stood outside a local Dillon’s supermarket and rang bells for the Salvation Army. It was cold outside and there was a possibility of rain and snow in the forecast for later in the day, but they pressed on with me and were happy to do it. Full disclosure: the store does have an outside awning, which we were able to stand under, and we were bundled up in gloves, stocking caps, heavy coats and thermal underwear. It’s not like we were in some Minnesota blizzard, risking Hypothermia, but we weren’t sitting cozy either.

I’m not relaying this information to give myself some pat on the back. All my praise and any pride I feel is for my beautiful wife, Liana, and our precious kids, Sam and Kenzie. I was a little worried about whether we could pull this off as a family.

Sam, at 9-years-old, is a little less idealistic about the world than he was at 4 or 5-years-old. A few years ago I could ask him, “Sam, do you want to go out for T-ball?” “Do you want to take a karate class?” “Do you want to go out for a walk with Ol’ Dad?” He always answered, “Yeah” and was aglow with the child-like spirit of adventure. He’s more selective now, not so game for anything and sometimes it’s a struggle to get him away from Nintendo Wii. Yet, there he was, blithely ringing his bell and smiling. He was having fun, enjoying himself. The innocence was still there.

Kenzie is a 6-year-old spitfire. She has a short fuse and when she gets mad, she goes scorched earth, but her smile is angelic and when she extends her arms to hug her old dad, as she often does, it’s heaven. This girl -- who revels in her markers, scissors and drawing paper – has the dramatic temperament of a Hollywood superdiva. She was in a bad mood as we drove to the store, prompting Liana to look at me and say, “I don’t know if she’ll be able to do this.” I kept my thinking in positive mode, though, and it paid off. I was so proud as my daughter stood there stoically, yet adorable in her Salvation Army apron, ringing her bell.

I was surprised by the number of people who dropped money in the red bucket. Perhaps if the Salvation Army had cute kid bell ringers out there every day, they would make a killing in donations. Then again, maybe there are more good people in the world than we have come to expect.

For me, this was the highlight of this Christmas season. The holiday innocence I knew as a child subsided a long time ago. Nowadays, it seems like materialism, corporate greed and the incivility of stressed out shoppers has tainted Christmas. Even our treasured story of the Christ child’s birth is cheapened by commercial exploitation.

There is a higher, universal principal that I don’t want to see lost. It’s an ideal so in need of illumination today. I am reminded of the Gospel accounts of a humble Jesus extending his hand to the poor, the sick and grieving – of making Himself servant to the lowly and scorned of society. For those cast aside and unseen by a pious, materialistic world, He offered hope and light.

Christmas should inspire hope and sacrifice, and not perpetuate a sense of entitlement. I want my kids to grow up knowing that if anybody in their community is hurt, disenfranchised or isolated, it’s their problem too. We all have a responsibility to each other. If we become lost in our possessions and self-absorption, we disconnect ourselves from humanity.

We only stood out there for an hour. Liana and I could’ve gone for longer, but that’s a lot to ask of young children. We can never just sit back and say we’ve done our part because unfortunately, more is always needed: buying a child a gift from a store Angel Tree, sponsoring a needy family, helping to feed the homeless. I just hoped our small contribution helped somebody and I thank God every day for my wife, my son and my daughter.

Friday, December 24, 2010

the mr.hankey song!

Christmas Parody Letter 2010

Seasons greetings & a howdy ho! It’s that time of year again as a cluster full of shoppers congregate in Wal-Marts, Best Buys & TJ Max stores around the country to share in the joy that can only come through giving at Christmas.

Liana gave me an early Christmas present, deer whistles. Unfortunately, I did not have deer whistles on my car when I slammed into the doe darting across Greenwich Road that fateful night. My car was totaled, but I was all right. Can’t say as much for the deer. LMAO. I inadvertently killed a deer much like Santa’s reindeer & I’m sorry about that. But w/ my deer whistles, it shouldn’t happen again. I am now driving a 2009 Suzuki SX4 and I’m loving it like a kid playing with his favorite Christmas toy. Liana, the bargain queen, helped me find a spectacular car at a greatly reduced price.

She’s also playing the role of domestic goddess, baking pies for all the wonderful family we will see again this Christmas. We truly cannot see them enough as I know it is with you & yours at this special time. Liana, Sam, Kenzie & I felt the joy as we stood outside the Dillon’s store, ringing bells for the Salvation Army. The children were all smiles. So was I even if Liana said I had a creepy serial killer look on my face.

We attended a Christmas program at the kids’ school. It was quite enjoyable even if they did have them singing a bunch of hippie, liberal crap about being good to our planet and loving people of all shapes & colors. Have a merry New Age Christmas everybody. Guess it’s goodbye Santa & Baby Jesus in a manger. Hello Mother Earth and wiccan chants. It’s breaking my silver balls, just thinking about it. Saw a Christmas wreath at the front door of the middle school the other day. Oh, I have the Christian holiday cooties. Someone call the ACLU.

But it’s been a wonderful year. Last spring I took the kids to sunny California & we all went to Disneyland so little Kenzie could dress like a princess & get her hair styled at the Bibbity Bobbity Botique. Also, we walked along Hollywood Boulevard and saw a lot of medicinal shops with a lot of water filtration pipes and cylindrical tubes. There were brownies inside. Kind of reminds me of that episode of “That 70s’ Show” where Kitty told Hyde she knew what his secret brownie recipe was: love. It was like a great waft of love. I felt a mellowing sensation just being in California except for the feeling of insane paranoia that crept into my life as I stood eyeball to eyeball with a man near the seedy, gray McDonald’s by Arsenio Hall’s Walk of Fame star.

Hey who needs Hollywood? Or Las Vegas? Or “Music City” Nashville? I stepped it up this summer when I took the family to that entertainment mecca Branson, Missouri. There’s nothing like the Shanghai Circus & Tony Roi’s “Elvis experience” with a Yakoff Smirnoff show in the land of God & Country. Yes, there are lots of billboards in Branson, bearing the words, “God & Country.” You’ll find them near the Confederate flags and “No farting zone” signs.

Later, we visited Liana’s cousin Pam in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Jim, were having a Christening for their baby girl, CC. And in other news, Liana’s brother Delbert had a surgery regarding the digestive issues in his gastric system and inflammations of his upper & lower intestines. Good thing he had the intestinal fortitude to withstand it. LMAO.

In closing, I want to remind us all to reflect on the true meaning of this season as we roast chestnuts with our families and light a Yule log for Jesus’ birthday. There is a burgeoning tourist industry in Bethlehem & from what I’ve read the Inns are all full. (How’s that for a marketing slogan?) But isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The joining of our capitalist values with Christian love as we reflect on that night many years ago when three astrologers followed a comet to that glorious stable. It hasn’t been the best of years – what with our socialist president trying to cheat billionaires out of their tax breaks and allowing fairies into the military, but for just one day, we can all share in the peace & goodwill that is Christmas.
God bless us everyone,

Jeff

P.S. I watched some old Christmas shows on TV that I originally saw as a child during the 1970s. “The Search for the Baby New Year.” “Rudolf & Frosty the Snowman in July.” Those people must’ve been dropping some serious acid.