The Spirit of Christmas - Giving From the Heart
"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."- Roy L. Smith
The year was 1999 and as odd as it seems, the spirit of Christmas changed in the middle of July. It was a day my family will never forget. Until then, life was pretty normal. I was 44 years old with a better than average job. My brother, three years younger than me, was equally successful in business and the epitome of a good husband and father. My parents were healthy and happy in their retirement and loving life. None of us could have predicted that in a fraction of a second, all that would change.
My phone rang shortly after ten o’clock on that Sunday evening. My brother, usually cool as a cucumber, had an edge to his voice as he said “meet us at the hospital, Mom has had a stroke”. I lived only a few blocks from the hospital and Mom and Dad lived about six miles away. EMS had arrived and was loading Mom up for transport. My brother and Dad would follow in the car.
The next few hours seemed like a bad dream. Mom was determined not to be a candidate for the clot busting drug called TPA. But, the Emergency Room physician told us he was willing to give it anyway. Mom’s stroke was so severe that the doctor felt TPA carried no greater risk than doing nothing. The prognosis was grim but we were told to expect one of three things if we gave the drug. Mom would either show rapid improvement, no change at all, or, her brain would hemorrhage and she would die. We were given 15 minutes to make the call.
Angels Are Real, Aren't They?
Now this is where some people will think I’m crazy or, that I really was dreaming. I can only tell you it happened and let you draw your own conclusions.
As we stood huddled in that Emergency Room agonizing over how to make the decision, a stranger walked up to us and said, “Can I pray with you?” I vaguely remember shaking my head up and down indicating a yes to his question. I don’t remember his words but I do remember the peace that fell over us. And when he said “Amen”, we knew what we had to do. We never saw that man again and I can only believe he was our angel that night.
At 11:00 P.M. they injected my Mom’s IV with the miracle drug TPA. An hour later she was showing signs of improvement. Six hours later she was attempting to speak and trying to move her right arm that had been paralyzed. We had made the right decision.
Mom’s journey back from the stroke was long and hard but our family is strong and we came through it. But, as I said, Christmas changed that night.
It was clear quite soon that Mom would need months of therapy and that as much as she loved Christmas with all it’s traditions; her days of shopping and wrapping decorating and cooking were over. Our family would need new traditions and we couldn’t waste a minute figuring out what they would be.
We sat down together, as a family, grateful for this chance we had been given to do things differently. We had been given the greatest Christmas gift of all and that was time with my Mom. It could not be wrapped in a package and placed under the tree. Nothing that could would ever mean as much to us again. And so, as a family, we decided to pool our resources and give to a charity that would help others have a Christmas. And that is what we have done for the past fourteen years.
I cannot tell you how much pleasure comes from giving from the heart. We rarely speak of it now but each year when we gather together as a family, the joy is palpable. Our Christmas season is no longer hurried or worried. The stress of choosing the perfect gift no longer exists. The worry of too little time to do the shopping, wrapping, decorating and cooking has vanished. We are left with time to spend together reflecting on the blessings in our life and the joy of knowing that we have helped to make Christmas special for someone else who has fallen on hard times. Through that tragic night in the Emergency Room, we found the true spirit of Christmas.
"It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.: ~W.T. Ellis
My Personal Change
I’m older now and there are some that think my Christmas must be a sad and lonely time. You see, I don’t put up a tree or shop until I drop. Instead, I pour a cup of coffee, put the Christmas music on the CD player and, look around me, reminded of all that I am grateful for and planning how I might use my time to help others. The spirit of my Christmas is giving from the heart.
Christmas is just a few weeks away and I am so busy that I don’t know where the days go. I have found a new joy this year, in the spirit of the season. Let me tell you about it.
The People Who Touched My Heart
About fifteen miles from where I live is a community of Native Americans that I have grown to love. They are members of the Monacan Indian Nation of Amherst County here in Virginia. I have written about their history and progressive effort to reclaim their heritage. Their history is a sad part of our State’s history but their future is so bright. Click here to read about the Monacan Indian Nation. It is one of my popular articles and the good news is that it will open in a new window for you.
I have grown to love many of the members of the Monacan Indian Nation. I have seen some of them struggling during a failing economy. Some have lost jobs while others lost full time status. It has been a hard year for some as they lost family due to illness or age and had the added expense of a funeral on a budger that was already stretched too thin. Others, who tried to stretch a dollar a little further by heating with wood, lost their home and everything in it to a house fire. And there are others who have faced serious health challenges while being uninsured. For some, providing a Christmas for their children just isn’t possible.
Doing Something Is BetterThan Doing Nothing
Wishing that I had the luxury of writing a check large enough to make a difference was a waste of time. I simply don’t have the means to do it. Sometimes it pays to be a dreamer; to not know the meaning of “impossible” or “can’t”. I believe we can all do something so this is what I have done.
First, I asked permission from the Monacan Indian Nation. Respect is an important part of Native American culture and I would never do anything on behalf of the People without asking permission. Thankfully, they said “yes” and so in the Spirit of Christmas and with hope that others might give from the heart, I started a Monacan Indian Children’s Christmas Fund on the very popular web site – GoFundMe. It’s a place where anyone can start a fundraising campaign for almost anything that is honest and real.
After creating the campaign, I shared the link on all my social media pages. I shared it on facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+. And, I asked all my friends to do the same. I wanted to do something for the children who might not have a Christmas unless someone helped. I had heard that 128 children were given a new outfit and a toy from the Monacan Indian Nation last year and that the need was even greater this year. Not helping wasn’t an option for me.
I wish I could tell you that the campaign was a huge success. I can’t. The reasons are variable. Honestly, I should have started earlier in the year. Without doubt, the economy has left many charities with fewer resources this year. There are more charities asking for more help than ever before. What I have learned though is invaluable.
The Lessons Learned
Every event in our life comes to teach us if we are only willing students. Although I could not write the check, I could do something. But even then, the lessons were not easy. The really important ones never are.
- You can give people an opportunity to help but you cannot force them.
- A dollar given from a caring heart is worth more than $5.00 from a begrudging one.
- Sometimes you just have to ask for what you need and let it go.
- When you really care, people can feel it.
- Never judge someone who just doesn’t share your passion. Believe that they have their own and will work just as hard for it.
- Do something, even if it seems small. It’s better than doing nothing.
My hub about the Monacan Indian Nation
- The Monacan Indian Nation In Central Virginia
The Monacan Indian Nation of Amherst County in Central Virginia is fighting to be recognized by the Federal Government after more than 10,000 years of documented existence. The Monacan Nation has endured unspeakable racism but the Monacan People are
Christmas Is Almost Here. It's Time For Good Cheer.
In a few days, I will close2014 the Monacan Indian Children’s Christmas campaign to allow time for shopping, wrapping, and distribution. I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a chance to donate to the new 2015 campaign. If your heart has been touched by what you’ve read here and you would like to help make Christmas better for a child, click here to visit the 2015 campaign page. You can also learn more about the Monacan Indian Nation through a short video posted there.
And finally, in the Spirit of Christmas, may you and yours be blessed with an abundance of health, laughter, love and a passion for giving from the heart.
"Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts." ~Janice Maeditere
The Heart of Christmas
© 2014 Linda Crist