Tag Archives: giving

Yes, Dear Bloggers, There IS A Santa Claus

(Below is an edited version of a post from last season. It has the same message. And I am as passionate today about the message as when I first wrote it. It needed to be said again.)

I believe in Santa Claus.

I’m shocked when I meet someone who doesn’t.

Recently, I was perusing your blogs out there and I found not one, not two, but three blogs dedicating posts to the evils of Santa Claus.

Santa = Evil?!?

And there were comments, lots and lots of comments agreeing with them.

I was angry. I was outraged. I vowed never to read those blogs again. I started taking names to avoid reading the blogs of people agreeing with such blasphemy.

And then I stopped myself. Jane, I said to myself, You believe in God. You have friends who don’t. You read their blogs. You’re fine with their difference of opinion, faith and beliefs. You preach, “One mountain, many paths.” How can you completely disregard another blogger’s right to disagree with your belief in Santa Claus? How can ONE post nullify all the other posts you read by them and enjoyed?

So….reluctantly….because logic won with this internal struggle…..I re-bookmarked all three of those blogs and I tore up my McCarthy list.

But not without defending my stand!

When my daughter was about three-years-old a friend told me about a wonderful Santa that I absolutely must take her to. We did. He was elderly. (Of course) He had a genuine white beard and longer white hair. (Of course)  He wore a red suit with shiny buttons and he sat out in his sleigh every night between Thanksgiving and December 23 (because he’s very busy on the 24th!) listening to children, finding out about their lives, helping them to narrow their lists (he only allowed 2 toys because his sleigh was only so big!) and chatted with the parents.

He must have had an eidetic memory. Through the years he would remember what school my daughter attended, her love of gymnastics, that she had a cat, even a few of the gifts he had brought her in the past. Before any of you start jumping up and down yelling, “Creepy!” I can assure you (and I’m quite sensitive to creepiness) it never, ever, ever, ever appeared creepy.

He was genuine. He was sweet. He was Santa Claus. And he did this out of the goodness of his heart. He was a member of our community – recently retired. His many acres of property were decorated with Christmas lights that brought people from miles around. He dedicated his time to help children believe in kindness, in goodness, in unconditional giving. He cared about the children in his community and took collections to “pay his light bill” and to give to the local Boys and Girls Club. He reminded them to study hard in school, mind their parents, brush their teeth. He reinforced strong values and the “real” reason for the season.

There is a 10 year age difference between my daughter and my sons. So for a time – she felt too old to see Santa in person – we skipped visiting. Oh sure, we always rode by to see the lights. If he wasn’t busy with another child he always waved to those passing by. But then we moved to another part of the county and once my boys arrived we skipped seeing Santa because we felt they were too young.

Then, they were 3 and 2 years old. They were ready! And I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for Santa to see how our daughter had grown. To meet her two new brothers. We talked to the boys about Santa. My daughter filled them in on what was to come Christmas morning. She helped them make a list. Just before we turned down the street I cried, “Let’s look for Santa!” But the street was dark. Only a porch light was on at the house. The area for parking wasn’t marked off anymore. My #1son asked, “Where Santa?” My husband quickly piped up, “Oh no! He’s not here tonight. I forget to check the schedule. I’ll bet he’s at the mall this evening.”

It’s a good thing my husband spoke up. I couldn’t. A tear made its way down my cheek.

When we got home I scoured the internet. I found our local online paper. The headline read “County Santa Will Return to the North Pole.” I was crushed. But he was getting older. His health wasn’t as good. And he just couldn’t keep up the hours anymore. He had been doing it for 13 years from 6pm until 8pm every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The article showcased parent after parent talking about all he meant to their child’s vision of Christmas and to our community.

He truly was Santa to all of us.

Santa is not about commercialism. He’s not about greed. He’s about giving for the sake of making someone else’s eyes light up. He’s about wonder and imagination. He’s about love and kindness.

And if you’re looking, you will see him. He may not be dressed up in a red suit. His beard may not have grown in. You will find his spirit in every act of generosity and grace during this wonderful season.

But you have to be willing to suspend your cynicism. You have to be willing to accept gifts without the expectation of something in return. To my knowledge, Santa doesn’t discriminate. As long as you believe, the gifts will come. Some are wrapped. Some are not. Some are obvious gifts. Some you realize as a gift only later.

But Santa is real.

If only you believe.

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18 Comments

Filed under children, Holiday

Money For Nothin’ And Givin’ For Free

Remember when my blog exploded because of a little Random Act of Kindness post?

Remember how I promised a post on the random comments I received?

Well, here it is.

I’m tempted to just end it here. Leave you in suspense. But what suspense? Oh, sure. I got the same crazy spam that prompted this post. Or this one, when I thought aliens were sending me spam.

Then there was the 2000 word comment. (I’m not kidding. I cut and paste it and put it into Word so it would count the words for me.)  A 2000 word, nonsensical comment. Just a string of 2000 words. Who does that? And why?

But quite honestly, most of the spam I received was of your garden variety.

Except for one.

A comment from someone who claimed to have been a sexual slave for 18 months in Morocco. She began listing her financial troubles and general woes. And then she shared that she was praying that someone might bestow upon her, some random act of kindness – in the form of a couple hundred dollars. She ended her comment with this line: “Love to Jane and everyone who agrees with her talent of giving for free.”

That comment has been gnawing at me for over a week now. Is it real? Should I have let her comment appear? Why did I feel so strongly about censoring it?

Is it real? – Who knows. We can never know. There is so much deceit and scam running rampant on our internet waves. It’s hard to tell.

Should I have let her comment appear? – No. Then why am I telling you about it now? Maybe I want to be absolved of any guilt should it have been a true cry for help. Maybe I want her to see this post so she can hear me say, there are other places to go to for the kind of help you need. And then, when I write that response, I start to feel silly. Of course it was another scam.

Why did I feel so strong about censoring it? – “Giving for free.” Handouts. The old story about giving a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. (Oh, don’t I sound like a hardened, old Republican? Shudder.)

I was a member of the Junior League in our area. No. I wasn’t one of those bored doctor’s wives, looking for a few volunteer gigs to put on my resume. I was a single mom, passionate about giving back to my community. The years I was in the league we had out-of-this-world, amazing leadership. True givers. Movers and shakers. I learned skills about organizing and getting things done that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

I also learned that there are tons and tons and tons of resources out there for the downtrodden. For the infirm. For the poor. And they’re not that hard to find.

The world owes me. Stick it to the man. If I can get away with it, why not? Who does it hurt?

It hurts me. Most of all, it hurts you.

There are people out there, families truly hurting. Living each day without knowing if the next day will bring food or shelter. I am much more willing to help someone who is desperately trying to eek out a living – pounding the pavement, visiting soup kitchens and United Way and free health clinics and applying for food stamps when necessary – than someone standing in front of me with their hand out saying I owe them because I should be kind. Or because I have more.

I am much more willing to help someone who is taking responsibility for their destiny than someone who wants to ride coattails.

Oh, goodness. I sound like a cold, hard, witch.

I’m not. Really.

 I’m just wondering when personal responsibility will be in vogue again.

19 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Ponderings, Soapbox

Cute Bear – Great Cause!

You know me, I’m all about great causes. Abby, from Mutterings from the Moor, is very crafty. Oh, how I envy her craftiness. And she’s come up with an adorable little bear to raffle off, raising money for cancer research. To give please click HERE And to visit Abby and find out more about her craft and her cause, click HERE.  Thanks everyone! And thanks to Abby for your contribution and efforts to such a great cause.

5 Comments

Filed under Be-Causes

Shoes – One For One

If you haven’t heard about TOMS shoes I’m helping to spread the word. Suzicate first enlightened me with her post about her first pair of TOMS. She loves them! Her enthusiasm was catchy. I went to check them out myself. Yes. The shoes are cute. They look comfortable and I’m all about comfort. But then I clicked on the “Our Movement” tab and I was mesmerized.

One man. Blake Mycoskie. On vacation in Argentina. To play polo. He saw women and men wearing a style of shoe he thought interesting. It was the fashionable new thing. But then, literally right next door, he saw villagers without shoes on their feet. He spent the rest of his vacation volunteering at a local village. Fresh water was 2 miles away and walking with the children they had to stop every 5 minutes or so because their feet hurt. He took a closer look. Thick callouses. Cuts. Scrapes. Painful sores. He met grown children who had never worn a shoe a day in their life. Adults who had only owned a few pairs in a lifetime. Amputations because of deadly infections. He wanted to do something.

On the plane ride home he got an idea.

Blake Mycoskie was not a modern-day cobbler. He knew nothing about the shoe business. What he did know is that children around the world, in impoverished countries, were suffering because they lacked something most of us take for granted. What if he duplicated the “fashionable” shoe he saw on the polo field spectators? What if for every pair of shoes he sold he provided a pair for children in need? One for One.

So that’s exactly what he did. TOMS, Shoes for Tomorrow, was born in 2006. I love that this is a company that was started with the sole purpose of helping others. It wasn’t a shoe company that decided to do something good. It was one man, who wanted to help children around the world and he came up with a way to do it.

For some of us, the shoes are a little pricey. On the website they start around $40. Of course, they go up from there. If you’re the type that needs to see them live I googled it and Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom carry them, too.

I know many of us are focused on Haiti right now. And some of you may be saying, “Why can’t I just donate to some organization directly instead of having to buy something?” But if you like the shoes, if you’re going to buy shoes anyway – why not purchase them from a company with a primary mission to help others?

15 Comments

Filed under Be-Causes

Yes, Dear Bloggers, There IS A Santa Claus!

I believe in Santa Claus. I’m shocked when I meet someone who doesn’t. In fact, just recently, I was perusing your blogs out there and I found not one, not two but three blogs out there dedicating posts to the evils of Santa Claus. Santa = Evil?!? And there were comments, lots and lots of comments agreeing with them. I was angry. I was outraged. I vowed never to read those blogs again. I started taking names to avoid reading the blogs of people agreeing with such blasphemy.

And then I stopped myself. Jane, I said to myself, You believe in God. You are comfortable with Jesus being a saviour. You have friends who don’t. Who very vehemently do not believe in a God at all. You read their blogs. You’re fine with their difference of opinion, faith and beliefs.  You preach, “One mountain, many paths.” How can you completely disregard another blogger’s right to disagree with your belief in Santa Claus? How can ONE post nullify all the other posts you read by them and enjoyed? So….reluctantly….because logic won with this internal struggle…..I re-bookmarked all three of those blogs and I tore up my McCarthy list.

But not without defending my stand!

When my daughter was about three years old a friend told me about a wonderful Santa that I absolutely must take her to. We did.  He was elderly. (Of course) He had a genuine white beard and longer white hair. (Of course) He wore a red suit with shiny buttons and he sat out in his sleigh every night between Thanksgiving and December 23 (because he’s very busy on the 24th!) listening to the children, finding out about their lives, helping them to narrow their lists (he only allowed 2 toys because his sleigh was only so big!) and chatted with the parents. He must have had an eidetic memory. Through the years he would remember what school my daughter attended, her love of gymnastics, that she had a cat, even a few of the gifts he had brought her in the past. Before any of you start jumping up and down yelling, “Creepy!” I can assure you (and I’m quite sensitive to creepiness) it never, ever, ever, ever appeared creepy. He was genuine. He was sweet. He was Santa Claus.

And he did this out of the goodness of his heart. He was a member of our community – recently retired. His many acres of property were decorated with Christmas lights that brought people from miles around. He dedicated his time to help children believe in kindness, in goodness, in unconditional giving. He cared about the children in his community and took collections to “pay his light bill” and to give to the local Boys and Girls Club. He reminded them to study hard in school, mind their parents, brush their teeth. He reinforced strong values and the “real” reason for the season.

There is a 10 year age difference between my daughter and my sons. So for a time – she felt too old to see Santa in person – we skipped visiting. Oh sure, we always rode by to see the lights. If he wasn’t busy with another child he always waved to those passing by. But then we moved to another part of the county and once my boys arrived we skipped seeing Santa because we felt they were too young.

Then, they were 3 and 2 years old. They were ready! And I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for Santa to see how our daughter had grown. To meet her two new brothers. We talked to the boys about Santa. My daughter filled them in on what was to come Christmas morning. She helped them make a list. Just before we turned down the street I cried, “Let’s look for Santa!” But the street was dark. Only a porch light was on at the house. The area for parking wasn’t marked off anymore. My #1son asked, “Where Santa?” My husband quickly piped up, “Oh no! He’s not here tonight. I forget to check the schedule. I’ll bet he’s at the mall this evening.” It’s a good thing my husband spoke up. I couldn’t. A tear made its way down my cheek.

When we got home I scoured the internet. I found our local online paper. The headline read “County Santa Will Return to the North Pole.” I was crushed. But he was getting older. His health wasn’t as good. And he just couldn’t keep up the hours anymore. He had been doing it for 13 years from 6pm until 8pm every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The article showcased parent after parent talking about all he meant to their child’s vision of Christmas and to our community.  He truly was Santa to all of us.

Santa is not about commercialism. He’s not about greed. He’s about giving for the sake of making someone else’s eyes light up. He’s about wonder and imagination. He’s about love and kindness. And if you’re looking, you will see him. He may not be dressed up in a red suit. His beard may not have grown in. You will find his spirit in every act of generosity and grace during this wonderful season. But you have to be willing to suspend your cynicism. You have to be willing to accept gifts without the expectation of something in return. To my knowledge, Santa doesn’t discriminate. As long as you believe, the gifts will come. Some are wrapped. Some are not. Some are obvious gifts. Some you realize as a gift only later.

 But Santa is real. If only you believe.

18 Comments

Filed under children, Holiday

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – But Then What?

A post over at My Wildlife’s Words  got me thinking. My grandfather used to volunteer much of his time at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. But he never gave money, outright, to someone who was panhandling. I asked him why. And he said to me, “Because you never know if they’re going to do the right thing with it. Before you can help them they need to know how to help themselves.” He always did a litmus test with people begging for change. He’d tell them no, but if they wanted he would buy them a bowl of soup. If they took him up on the offer of a bowl of soup he’d buy them a meal, give them information on where he volunteered and often slipped them more money. If they turned him down he knew they weren’t ready to be helped.

But in my younger days I still gave them money any time they asked. And naive little me, visiting the Detroit Art Institute was approached by a gentleman who had run out of gas. Please? he pleaded, My wife and kids are sitting in the car. We just need enough gas to get home. I handed him a 5 dollar bill. He thanked me and approached another couple with the same story. I just assumed that he need more than $5 in gas to get home. We toured the gallery and walked to a nearby place for lunch. Crossing the street I see the desperate gentleman I had been approached by earlier, sitting with this buddy, drinking something out of a brown paper bag. I’d been had.

So I became jaded. I refused anyone who approached me for money. I wasn’t about to do my grandfather’s litmus test. Me? A lone female taking strange men or women to lunch? But I volunteered at our local homeless shelter, serving lunch a few times a month. I donated to causes that meant something to me.

I remember one particular Thanksgiving my sisters and I all met at my parent’s house in Louisville. My sister and I had to run out to the store. On our way, in an abandoned parking lot was an old station wagon. The back was made into a makeshift sleeping loft. Clothes and personal belongings were heaped in garbage bags. A woman dressed in tattered clothing sat outside her car with a sign begging for money. No work, she claimed. They lost their home. Trying to make it back home to California. Two children, in equally tattered clothing sat beside her. My sister cried, “Stop! We need to help them.” I kept driving and told her, no.  She was annoyed. And in the grocery store she grabbed her own cart and filled it with food. She insisted on stopping on our way home to give them the food. The woman tried to look grateful but told my sister what they really needed was money. Embarrassed, my sister reached into her purse and handed her a twenty. She tried again to leave the food but the woman refused. Puzzled, my sister got back in the car and we drove home in silence.

Later that night, on the evening news, was a story about that very woman. Evidently, a reporter followed her “home.” She used her electric garage door opener to shuttle her car away to safety. And then, presumably, entered her home. A very nice home. A very nice neighborhood. Homes with 3 car garages. Manicured lawns. When the reporter tried to interview her the door was slammed in his face. But of course, he had more information. It was estimated that she scammed $30,000 a year. Her husband was gainfully employed. She was well-known for several haunts, using different stories and signs.  And she used her children in this scam especially around the holiday season.

While visiting Savannah recently we were in a very nice specialty food store. They had gourmet jams and jellies. Wine and sweets. They also had a deli with hot and cold food. A man approached me and my son. He asked for money for some food. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to teach my child about helping someone in need. My husband was close by. There were plenty of people in the store and I could use my grandfather’s litmus test and feel safe using it if the man took me up on my offer to buy him a meal. He did take me up on my offer. We approached the counter so he could tell the server what he wanted. The server refused. I told him, No. This is my friend and I’m buying him a meal. The server still refused and told me panhandling is illegal. I told him I offered to buy him a meal. Reluctantly, he gave the man the food and I paid for it. But then he sternly told the panhandler to leave the store and never come back. And then sternly told me it was against the law to give money to panhandlers. There was a stiff fine and it was posted all over the city. I guess if they discouraged people from giving money to panhandlers they would leave and try elsewhere. So much for the lesson for my son. It turned into a big lesson for me.

Help or not to help? And who is it helping? I worked in the employment industry for a short time. Couple that experience with any of the charity work I’ve done I’ve learned there are people who want to help themselves and a “handout” will tide them over until they can make it on their own. And I’ve learned there are others that simply want the handout. Many people who need the help don’t know it exists. This country is a country of enablers. We want to reach out to others (Give me your tired, your poor). But we need to do a better job of making sure that the people who need it know where to find help. Most of all, we need to help create a society that doesn’t expect or rely on handouts to get by.

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Filed under Be-Causes