The Christmas season is upon us. It’s the time of year for twinkling lights, cooler temps, and family celebrations. For some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it’s a painful reminder of those no longer celebrating with us. And then, there are those of us in the middle. We aren’t sure if we are happy or sad. It changes from day to day; sometimes, from minute to minute. It’s a process.
As part of my “process”, I wanted to honor Brittany’s charitable spirit this year. I wanted to do something that would have made her smile. I wanted to make a difference. So, I have been doing my best to spread love and joy with the same generous spirit my daughter shared with so many.
My “process” started in November. I gave a generous donation to Death with Dignity for the work they are doing to spread awareness on behalf of all terminally ill patients. I knew that it was something that Brittany would be proud of, so it was an easy choice. Since then, I’ve been focusing on what my next charitable gift would be.
So, the other day, I started with something that didn’t cost me a dime but makes a huge difference for others in need. I knew I wanted to give a Christmas present to those who are sick or injured. I googled Red Cross, plugged in my zip code, and drove to a Vons shopping center where they were having a blood drive. It was about 10 miles away from my house. It was such a Brittany thing to do. Think it. Plan it. Do it! She took such joy in scratching things off her list. Man could my girl get things done!
What would be next? I had to think a bit. I decided I would donate art work to a children’s home in Georgia. They have 8 houses of kiddos that could use positive reinforcement. I found an artist that does artwork with messages for those who feel anxiety, stress, depression or low self esteem. With a little help from my sister, I will donate pillows, canvas art and posters made with inspirational messages. It all came together, as these things often do, with a wink from Britt. She loved children and I know that this is something she would have thoroughly enjoyed.
As I’ve been going through my “process”, I’ve felt very close to Brittany. When I can share love with others, I know she is near.
Recently, a family member shared the following story and I fell in love with it –
I hope you will enjoy this inspirational Christmas story, written by Nancy W. Gavin. It was originally published in the Dec. 14, 1982, issue of Women’s Day magazine. I hope this moving story reminds us all of the true meaning of Christmas and how giving from the heart can bring about immense pleasure.
The title is: “For the Man Who Hated Christmas.”
“It was 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.
“It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma; 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 on the wrestling team at the school he attended. 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 red and black uniforms and sparking 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 opposing team obviously could not afford.
“Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated next to me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have lots of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.”
“Mike loved kids – all kids. He so enjoyed coaching 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 a small white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and this was his gift from me.
“Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up 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 so on.
“The white 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.
“The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was wrapped in grief. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. It looks like this family tradition will continue.”
I have my envelope in hand and I’m making my list. I can’t bring Brittany back. So, I will focus on what I can do. I can BE THE CHANGE. I will BE THE CHANGE. And, Brittany will smile…because she will be proud of me. My “process” is making this holiday season a little better than the last. I have a focus. I have “work” that needs done. I have a way to keep Brittany “with me” throughout the Christmas season. No, it’s not the same. No, it’s not easy. But, she spent her final months fighting for what she believed in. So, I can muster up the strength, during the holidays, to make a difference where I can, when I can. With tears in my eyes, I can still make this world a more beautiful place to be.