Saturday, December 13, 2008

Toys for Tots and Hard Time Reflections

As I shopped online for toys for baby Nic’s first Christmas, I came across an old childhood favorite, Careers. Oh the hours I spent playing that one with the cousins. I will teach Nic to play cards and board games and I promise to be more patient with CandyLand than I was with Nic’s dad.

Well, shopping and thinking about toys is something I haven’t done for so long that I’m kind of out of practice. My venture to Toys R Us last Sunday was a great disappointment. I felt so out of my element. I prefer to shop online and the toy I ordered from Amazon arrived in a couple of days.

Toys are a large part of my life at work too as they pour in as we prepare to fill the wish lists of the kids in our Christmas program. The folks at Toys for Tots where we get a lot of toys from are reporting that donations are down, and yesterday we got far fewer than last year. It’s been a struggle at our non-profit. We don’t know yet what the end result will be, but it is safe to say Santa is adjusting to leaner times.

Which all leads me to wonder, what course of materialism have we set ourselves up for? Have we built up our children’s expectations too high? Have we lived too far beyond our means for far too long?

I remember Mom talking about the Great Depression and being thankful to get oranges and peppermint candy canes at Christmas time. She knew the meaning of doing without. We Baby Boomers and our Generation X and Next offspring really do not yet know that lesson.

Mom’s Okie family fell on hard times and headed off to California when the Dust Bowl hit, wiping the topsoil needed for healthy crops off of their little hardscrabble farm. They got as far as Arizona. The kids old enough picked cotton alongside Granny and my grandfather. After a time, they loaded up the truck and headed back to Oklahoma and got by with the help of family. Not until WWII did things turn around. Mom went off to work for the government in Washington, D. C. and the country rebounded.

So, dear gentle readers, while I reflect and ponder these questions, I still am encouraged by the true spirit of Christmas. I see it everyday in the people giving to those less fortunate. Officemates who give up their traditional gift exchanges in favor of helping others. School kids who emptied their piggy banks and delivered an envelope stuffed with dollars and coins. Scouts, Key Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Lions, churches of all kinds, businesses, individuals. They are coming through.

As one donor said to me, “I am doing ok—at least for now.” I like that. Me too—at least for now

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

She Stopped and Changed Course

With a slight layer of snow on the ground, a mostly flat prairie landscape has prepared itself for winter. Acres of cornfields as far as my eye could see now sport only stubs of the once flourishing crop. Almost overnight, we went from waves of green to stark barren ground sometimes dotted with flocks of Canada geese.

I almost cried the other morning on my way to work. The day, devoid of sunlight, was too much a reminder of the long, cold period ahead. How, dear gentle readers, did this former girl of the South find herself so far North? Do I dream of warmth and short winters? You bet. But most of all, I’d love to know that I wouldn’t have to worry about slipping on icy walks, steps and parking lots.

On the way back from dropping off Scott at school, a beautiful deer darted toward the road and I prayed she would stop before my car crashed into her. A small prayer was answered as she stopped and returned to the barren cornfield and I continued on my way.

I am tired. My days are busy. So busy there is little time for reflection. Maybe though this winter is just the right time—a time to beware of slippery dangers not always apparent, a black ice if you will. Maybe, just maybe, the long winter will bring a healing spring full of new growth. It’s something to look forward to.