Take this time to help someone else and yourself

This is the season of twinkling lights, hot cocoa, trips to our local stores to buy gifts, carols and poinsettias. Instead of enjoying them, we rush around trying to get everything done we think we need to do while trying to buy the “perfect” gift for everyone on our list.

This is the season of twinkling lights, hot cocoa, trips to our local stores to buy gifts, carols and poinsettias. Instead of enjoying them, we rush around trying to get everything done we think we need to do while trying to buy the “perfect” gift for everyone on our list.

In doing all this we forget what the season is really all about and cause enormous stress for ourselves.

We need to remember, too, that this year many families will not share Christmas or Hanukkah gifts due to the Boeing strike, layoffs at companies like WaMu and other businesses and the recession. However, most of us will be able to do something for others and ourselves. Most of us.

This year there are any number of adults and children who will fall through the cracks and are in need of the basics of daily life – food, deodorant, socks, food, a warm shirt, even a safe place to sleep at night. Our local agencies try to do the best for everyone who comes through their doors. At this time of year it behooves us to help them aid others. What can you do? Here are a few ideas:

• Spend just a few dollars less on each gift this year and donate the money to your local food bank. With more people out of work and asking for help there is a great need. I read one woman’s comment about using a food bank that I want to share with you: “In 48 years I never once thought about using a food bank, but my grandchildren are hungry and I have to feed them. Thank you for being here.” Call your local chamber of commerce and they can put you in touch with your local food bank or Plateau Outreach Ministries.

• Contact a local church; Ask the pastor if there is a “giving tree” you can take a name from or for the name of a family in need. Perhaps you could join with another friend or two to focus on one family.

• Our police departments give toys to children in need. Contact them to see how you can help.

• Contact your town’s youth center and ask what they could use. Believe it or not, our communities have homeless youth in need of clothes and personal hygiene items.

• Get in touch with the nurse at one of our local schools and ask what she could use. At the elementary schools it often is underwear and pants to give to kids who get wet during recess.

My family has never gone hungry, has always had a warm house to live in and never had to wrap up in blankets and coats to stay warm. Our children never had to wear the same clothes to school every day because that was all they had to wear. Our children never grew up in a home where the power company threatened to turn off the electricity because the power bill had not been paid. Many of the families in our communities cannot say the same. Any contribution you and I can make will be put together with others and make a huge difference in their lives. Reach out a hand to others, please.

Now that we are going to reach out to others, what are you going to give yourself for Christmas or Hanukkah? All year long you do things for others, so it is time you did something nice for yourself. You do not have to spend much money or, for that matter, any money at all.

– My favorite idea for a present for yourself, my No. 1 recommendation, is to get a library card…and use it. It will allow you to check out books, compact discs, videos, magazines. The card is free. With it you can travel the world, read good books that make you laugh and cry, learn how to do things, see concerts you and I could never afford to attend and have fun. You can even go in and read the local and regional newspapers at no cost – perfect if you cannot afford a subscription.

– Many local churches have invited the community to come and enjoy their Christmas musical performances and plays at no cost or for a free-will offering. How long has it been since you heard live Christmas music?

– Maybe you would like tickets to a play or concert, a garden or seed book to help you plan next year’s garden. Ask your family for help with this.

– Try a massage or manicure. Treat yourself.

– Something as small as a little poinsettia from the grocery store can brighten your kitchen table or coffee table.

– Treat yourself to something you have been wanting for a long time. Perhaps you have wanted a new drill bit or a small tool, a pair of heavy duty garden clippers, sturdy work gloves, a quilting tool or magnifying glass for studying stamps or genealogy notes and pictures. How about a new tool box, a kneeling bench for yard/garden work, a CD of your favorite music or a book or a long extension cord to take the place of the three or four you usually hook together to work in your shop or yard.

– Last, but certainly not least, invite a friend or two, one of whom needs to be able to drive at night, for a Christmas adventure. Drive to a neighborhood in town where homes are decorated and drive through it slowly enjoying all the beautiful lights and yard displays. If it is not too cold, walk a few blocks through the display enjoying all the sights as the sidewalks will be well-lighted. Afterward, invite them back to your home for a cup of hot cocoa with a small candy cane stirrer in the cup. You will be creating a new tradition and a warm winter memory.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and thank you for all the kind things you have said to me about this year’s articles. Stay warm, stay well, share a smile with everyone you meet and I will see you in 2009.

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