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The Spirit of Christmas - Giving From the Heart

Updated on December 30, 2014
"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."- Roy L. Smith

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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.

Traditions Change

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.

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

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  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    aesta1Thank you for the visit to my hub. I am sorry for your loss. I think all the big events in your life alter our path in some way, often in ways we do not understand until much later. The time we spend with loved ones is the most precious time of all. Wishing you many more opportunities to make precious memories.

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Interesting how an event can change how we celebrate. When my Mother passed on, our get together a have changed, too. But you're right. Maybe, it is better so we appreciate more our being together.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Lady G, I am so late responding to your visit. Please forgive me. Thank you so much for the visit in your generous compliments. I hope your holidays were all you could have hoped for. Happy belated new year to you too.

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    Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

    Wow, I am late here and just read this or just saw it. You are an amazing person and things do change. We do not put up a tree either. I think it is great that you started that tradition for that Indian Tribe. A little bit is a start and you are correct in that.

    I hope that you have a wonderful New Year.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    FaithReaper, Happy New Year to you too my friend and thank you for thinking of my family. You have a special place in my heart and I wish you the very best in this new year.

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

    Just stopping by to wish you a Happy New Year, dear Linda! Peace, blessings and hugs to you and yours this year and always.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    teaches12345, what a wonderful thing to do in celebration of the holiday. I applaud you and your family. There are so many people who are alone and without the kindness of others, there would be no joy of the season for them. Merry Christmas!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

    We do not celebrate Christmas with the flair of previous years. We have learned it is better to give than to receive, truly. This year, we will serve others through meals and visitations. I have a few people I have invited to lunch because I know they are alone. Like you, we find giving from the heart is a great reward.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Mary, thank you so much for reading this very personal story and sharing how it affected you. I don't know why I held on to it for so long but I know it was time to share it. I am definitely a believer in angels here on earth. I have been downsizing for a long time and still don't have it done. lol I cling to things with sentimental value and since I do not have children, I really have no one to pass them on to in the family. My niece isn't interested at all. How wonderful that your daughters will display your treasures among those of their own. I was feeling a bit like a scrooge until I started trying to raise money for the Monacan Indian children. Now, I feel warmer inside and grateful that I have the chance to help in a small way/ I really appreciate your visit today and wish you all the blessings of the season.

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

    I have tears in my eyes from reading your story about your Mother. I do believe Angels come into our lives from time to time. I downsized about two years ago, and gave all my Christmas decorations to my daughters. I have no space now to decorate, but I'll enjoy seeing all my old stuff at their house. Honestly, it has been a relief not to feel as though I have to decorate this year.

    Voted UP, etc and shared.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    denise.w.anderson, hello and thank you for the visit and nice compliment. Yes indeed - love can and does triumph over the difficult times in our lives and we become so much more strong in the process. Wishing y ou peace and love as we move into this holiday season.

  • denise.w.anderson profile image

    Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

    It is amazing the gifts that come into our lives when we allow the angels to enter! This is a wonderful story, a powerful example of how love can triumph, even in the midst of heartache and pain!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Jackie, I know you have a huge heart. I've seen it in your hubs so often. So many people think of giving only in terms of buying expensive gifts. It's so much more than that, isn't it? I wish you the merriest of holidays and a very blessed new year.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Stella, Merry Christmas to you too and thanks for the visit.

  • ladyguitarpicker profile image

    stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

    Great Hub, you are so right it's all about giving. We can all do something for others. Merry Christmas. Stella

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

    Such a beautiful heartwarming story I love and most importantly the wonderful information of how we can help someone. Like you I do not go all out for Christmas as I did in the past and I do try to think of others around I can do something for instead. Well you have opened up a terrific new venue I would have never dreamed of. I will most definitely look into this! Thank you so much and bless you for being such a blessing! ^+

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Precious Fath Reaper, you are always a blessing to me. Thank you so much for your words. I don't know why it was time to share this story but I know that it was as this hub practically wrote itself. You and I have shared many moments of like-experiences regarding our mothers. It is those shared experiences that build bridges between friends, even those that may never meet face to face. Thank you for sharing about the angel that came when your mother was preparing to leave this world, As I read it, I had a moment of clarity that had eluded me until now. It brought me a feeling of peace unlike anything I have ever felt. What a blessing!!!!!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours too. Wishing you the very best of the season.

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

    Dear Linda,

    What a blessing to read such a beautiful and heartrending story of how Christmas was changed back those years ago and how, now, the true spirit of Christmas is seen by your giving unselfishly of your time and self to those in need. This piece brought the tears in thinking of my sweet mother too, for we also had an angel to visit the ICU the night the doctors said my mother would not live through the night. Angels truly are among us. You are certainly an angel right here on this planet!

    Thank you for sharing here, as I know this is the first time you indicated you were able to share, and that means it is the perfect time to bless many, who you may never know of, but rest assured, the timing is perfect for a specific reason, dear friend.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, sweet woman.

    Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Miz B, you have made me cry. As I have aged, I have learned that family is far more than the family you were born into. I feel so blessed today, to have you in my circle and to feel the kinship with you that was there from the beginning of my time here on HP. I have said in earlier comments that this story was very personal. I had thought of sharing it on several occasions but my heart would not turn it loose. It flowed from me in this hub like water from a spring and I knew the time was perfect. I am equally sure that the same is true for our meeting. Do you think we had a sacred contract to meet in this life? I have wondered because it was so easy with us and I loved you when I read your first message on one of my hubs. I can only hope that I am truly worthy of the praise and the gift of friendship.

    The holiday will be here soon so let me pause for a moment and wish you and Mr B all the joy of the season and a new year of good health, lots of laughter, and abundance in all the things that really matter. All my love!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Mary, you are so kind. Your comments have touched my heart and fills it with the joy of the season. I am so blessed in so many ways and I count your support here on HP among them. I love many of the Monacan people and some of them love me like family. That, is another blessing. Thank you for your generous compliment. Wishing you all the blessings and joy of the season.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Eric, your journey here has been a blessing to watch and I am so glad we became friends early on. I won't tell your secret. The story of my Mom was so personal that I had not been able to share it until now. It just felt right finally. To hear that this one touched you in such a way verifies that it was time to tell the story. Thank you Eric. Thank you for always supporting my need to communicate and for caring enough to consider my cause. You are a special person and I wish you and your wife the most blessed of Christmas seasons.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    MizBejabbers 2 years ago

    This is beautiful, Linda. I love it that you shared such a caring story, but then, that’s the person that we’ve grown to know and love. Our sister, Linda. I’m so glad your mother survived, and I believe that your angel came at the right moment. I believe in divine spirits and in human angels, so which this was, I wouldn’t know. Billybuc is right. Your writing is always quality and precise, and HP is the better for it. I love reading anything you write, so keep it up as often as you can. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas with your family and success with your online fund for the Monacan Tribe. Much Love, Miz B

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

    This hub reeks of beauty and caring. Your mother must be so proud of her loving family for all they have given to others.

    Sharing your beautiful stories is a way to touch many hearts. I hope your Monacan People love you for all you do.

    Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Linda this is a most awesome hub. Thank you. Do not tell anyone but you had me crying. My wife and I will pray on how much we can give to your cause. Merry Christmas.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    vocalcoach...Wow! You made my heart swell with your comment. Both stories in this hub are so personal to me and yet I felt it was time to share them. To know that it touched another heart means the world to me. Thank you Audrey, so, so much. I wish you and your family the most beautiful of Christmas blessings.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Just Ask Susan, thank you so much for the link alert. It is fixed now. I had heard that HP was having issues with the link back feature and should have checked this several times. I really appreciate your message and hope you will visit the other hub now that it is working. I really would love to share my friends (the Monacan People) with you.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Came back to read your hub on Monacan Indian Nation and just wanted to let you know that the link is not working.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

    Your story is inspiring, and you are an example of "love your neighbor as yourself." Your campaign for helping the Monacan Indian children is absolutely wonderful and you have a very big heart. Thank you for sharing this as well as the experience with your mother and 'the angel.' I will certainly share this hub.

    Blessings to you, our own hub angel.

    Audrey

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    CrisSp, hello to you and thank you for the visit and comment. I tend to lean toward the touchy, feely side of most things. My heart is twice the size of my brain. At times I have wished for the opposite but I have learned to appreciate what I have been given. This story about my Mom was one I had not really written about in such detail. It was very personal and some of the emotions still a bit raw, even after all this time. This campaign to help provide Christmas for the Monacan Indian children brought those to the surface again. I am so blessed and it is easy to forget that sometimes. This is what I love most about writing and I appreciate you sharing it with me. Blessings to you and yours this season too.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill, my forever kindred spirit, you made my heart swell. I miss writing so much and am just beginning to see some space in the road ahead. I hope to be writing again with more frequency in the new year. I miss not only the joy of writing but the growth that comes from allowing others to critique your work. I'm afraid I'm a bit rusty.

    You are so precious to me and honest. I love that about you. You hit the nail on the head about social media. There are some amazing people to be found there but there are more who are just hiding behind a mask of fake caring. It's easy to talk but walking can be a real bitch. This campaign has been a learning experience and I will certainly apply those lessons to the next one. And...there will be another one. lol

    Thank you for the encouragement and the support this year as I struggled through the challenge of needing to deal with life and writing, Your steadfastness and talents have inspired me always but your heart is what I love the most. I will save my wishes for the holiday for an email. Love you my friend.

  • CrisSp profile image

    CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

    Very interesting, very touchy story that comes with a very powerful message for a beautiful cause.

    May you continue to be blessed and be a blessing to others.

    Voted up and sharing.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Kindred, you don't write as often as you once did, and I can tell you, in all honesty, that we are all poorer because of that. You are an excellent writer, and selfishly I wish you wrote an article every week to feed my hunger for quality writing.

    And I don't even know where to begin in my praise of you for caring so much about others. It comes as no surprise that your campaign has garnered little in the way of money. Social media is flooded with requests for such things, and many who swear their allegiance to you are not to be found when it comes to giving. Sad but true.

    Hugs and love, my dear friend

    bill

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Sha, I love you. In you I found the sister I never had. You are a blessing to me too.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Just Ask Susan, hello! Welcome to my circle. I am so pleased that you felt this hub worthy of sharing. I wish you and yours the most beautiful of holidays and looking forward to becoming friends in this crazy cyber world.

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    Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, they say something good comes out of every situation. Thankfully, that is true of that summer so long ago. Your mother survived. Your entire family redefined Christmas as you knew it. I think what you're doing for the Monacan tribe is awesome. You are a blessing, my friend!

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Loved reading your story and I will think of it often through Christmas and throughout the years to come. I'm not big on decorating at Christmastime and I only do so for my family. I will share your hub as many places as I can as I really enjoyed reading it.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi rebeccamealey! Merry Christmas to you and thank you for spending time with me here today. Yes, it is about blessings; those we give and those we receive. Wishing you the best of the season.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    A beautiful story. Thanks for reminding us of what this season is all about. Blessings, and Merry Christmas!