These are a few of my favorite things
How do you recapture the magic of the holidays? Make a difference
It’s the holiday season sometime in the 1980s, and our family of five (including one Holly) was loaded up in our Chevy Suburban. We were leaving Plano (go Wildcats!) and heading toward the streets of Big D.
KVIL holiday music blaring, the entire family playing air instruments and singing “Frosty the Snowman” as loudly as we could — we must have looked like a scene from a movie. Christmas Vacation, anyone?
But we were not in pursuit of more lighting for the house or our missing Jam of the Month club subscription. We were driving to a homeless shelter to cook and serve a meal, or maybe to the local children’s hospital via Toys R’Us to share the hundreds of stuffed animals we’d procured with our new, but ill, friends. It. Was. Awesome.
The magic of the seasonal sharing of my childhood was lost to the reality of responsibility, obligation and busy-ness.
Fast forward 10 years. As these things happen, I turned into an adult. It was surprising and still is sometimes, but that is fodder for another column. The magic of the seasonal sharing of my childhood was lost to the reality of responsibility, obligation and busy-ness.
Friends would ask for an end-of-year contribution to a charitable cause important to them, or the office would pool some funds and buy gifts for less fortunate individuals. It was a piece of the past that I savored and sorely missed.
Even though I contributed monies when asked, I spent most of the season cussing at traffic, strategizing about which entrance door at NorthPark was the fastest route to the store I wanted to visit, and overeating and overdrinking.
I’ll never forget the nadir of my seasonal disconnect: After enjoying a few martinis, I was wearing hot pink fur earmuffs purchased at our lovely local and famous department store. (Was it cold outside? I can’t remember.)
As I scurried through the mall, I fell face first on the ground in front of Dillard’s. I dropped all of my purchases, and the contents of my purse were strewn about the floor. I nearly broke my nose and an ankle.
The Salvation Army Santa and many good Samaritans helped me clean up the mess. But for me the mess was much bigger and more profound than I knew at the time.
The low point of recent holidays past: sitting on my couch, alone in my PJs, in silence. By choice.
With a few more years under my belt, I found someone with similar goals and the keen ability to question all my choices. Let’s get married! And so we did.
What followed was five years of shuffling between his family’s home in Canada and mine in North Texas for family holiday celebrations (Christmas and Hanakkah); a mid-point downturn to Chinese food takeout on Christmas Day; and then the silence of one year, alone in my PJs, by choice. I sat on the couch in complete silence but for the voice inside my head, yearning for the season to be over.
What followed that low point were some deeply personal inquiries about how my husband and I wanted to live our lives.
Then something surprising happened when we were reviewing our year and preparing for the next one. We realized that making a difference was important to both of us and that we wanted to be much more targeted and tangible in our sharing at the holidays — and, really, all year.
Now it’s December 2012. I am 38 years old, and I can see thousands of twinkle lights in the early evening sky. Pausing to admire the lights, I hear a faint but unmistakable sound and, within seconds, I pull a crying kitten out from under a bush.
With several cuts on my arm dripping blood, I call a like-minded friend. Within minutes, the kitten, Perry Mason, is snuggled up in his new bed at a foster home.
After After some deeply personal inquiries, my husband I realized that making a difference was important, and we wanted to be much more committed to giving all year.
I clean myself up and reply to an email about our family’s gifts for Frisco Family Services senior adoptees. We are donating in honor of our grandparents, who both died this year.
And here comes the Mr., because it’s time to talk about our contributions to a Communities Foundation Giving Guide benefactor, and to firm up the catered-by-us dinner we donated to his office’s silent auction, as well as what we plan to purchase in that auction. The two latter contributions are an effort to raise as many funds as we can as a coworker group. It. Is. Awesome.
This is now how I spend my holidays: in pursuit of sharing, in pursuit of caring and in pursuit of making a difference. This to me equates to catching a ride on the holiday magic train.
It’s there for all of us, so in case you want to capture some magic for yourself, here are some ideas from my treasure chest — my reclaimed and favorite holiday things.
Fund a grant request from a local nonprofit
According to philanthropy director Monica Egert Smith, the Dallas-based Communities Foundation of Texas reviews hundreds of grants each year for inclusion in its yearly Giving Guide.
Many local nonprofits submit specific projects — all under $20,000 —in areas of interest such as education, arts and culture, and youth. The agencies and grants, once reviewed for conditions such as cultural timeliness, collaboration with other local groups, and a solid track record of success, are highlighted in the paper Giving Guide and are also listed online at CFT’s website.
You can make a donation of any amount from the comfort of your computer, and many have matching programs that can help multiply the donated dollars. Knowing that $20K is a lot of money, pool this year’s fruitcake budget and crowd-fund one of your favorites. There are 350 choices in the Giving Guide this year.
Give with a side of experience
Load up your fur baby for a visit to Santa Paws at North Garland PetSmart, benefiting New Beginnings Cat Rescue. This Saturday and Sunday, from 11 am-4 pm, pet parents can commemorate the season by having a digital photo of their pet taken with Santa.
PetSmart adoption partners play Santa, and $5 from every photo package sold goes to New Beginnings Cat Rescue to help save the lives of homeless pets. While you are there, drop off a stack of warm fleece blankets and a bunch of conch and catnip toys for the local animal rescue agencies. Adopt a cat, a dog — a turtle! Our animal friends like the holidays too.
Engage in random acts of kindness
I spotted this in my Facebook news feed. Someone put together a pretty little picture listing things one could do to share this time of the year, and it is fantastic!
The ideas are simple: paying for the coffee or meal of the person behind you in line, leaving an extra-big tip at a restaurant and taping lottery tickets to random car windows. How fun could that be?
What are you passionate about at this time of year? Could sharing your resources help you remember the magic of the season? Could it make a difference in your family, office or community? Could an action like this change your month, your year and quite possibly your life experience?
If you could give any gift, what would it be? Okay. Now go do that. Act. And smile —because this act could change your life. It did mine.