Monday, December 1, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life. Celebrate the Good Every Day.

While every family has ups and downs, and no childhood is perfect, I do remember my parents always giving.  They gave their time, their money and their energy to countless causes and organizations.  My dad ran the football program, my mom ran the concession stand.  They coached, volunteered and donated.  With six kids, they certainly had every excuse to politely say no, but, they never did.

My parents not only gave to others, they gave to us.  I remember Christmas mornings with gifts scattered all around the family room.  Most times we couldn’t even get near the tree cause there were so many gifts.  Our holidays were plentiful.  My parents dressed us in similar clothes and took photos and we spent many nights combing through the giant Sears wish book.  While we were extremely blessed, my parents made sure we knew not everyone was quite as fortunate.  We were aware that our small pocket of the world was not the norm.

One of the many memories I have is my dad and his charity, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I can’t remember how old I was when it started, but I remember how it started.  My dad had read a local newspaper article about an inner city post office and all the Santa letters that went undelivered to the North Pole.  These kids asked for simple necessities like coats and shoes, and many times they asked for them for their parents and siblings.  The article detailed a few of the most heartwarming letters, with a few children asking Santa for simple things like new socks because “mine have holes in them.”

My dad read this article and decided to go to the post office and retrieve the letters.  It tugged at his heartstrings that these letters would go unread and be discarded.   My parents have always felt children deserve to believe in miracles.  Kids need to know there is good in the world, and they have a right to believe in magic.  The innocence of childhood is often robbed from these kids who grow up without the basic necessities most of us take for granted.

The next year my dad’s charity, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was born.

For the next several Novembers, I remember reading through hundreds of letters from kids living in poverty.  My father reached out to a few select elementary schools in the most poverty stricken areas and the teachers gave their students an assignment:  Write a letter to Santa.  Those letters came to our home, and we sorted through them.  Every year the local Kmart opened its doors at 3am and a group of volunteers, myself included, walked the store with a stack of letters each.  We read the letters and chose jackets, socks, pants and sweaters.  We bought new backpacks and blankets.  Every child, whether they wished for one or not, received a toy.  I remember one year going to my mother with all the items I chose for a little boy and his letter.  She checked through them but sent me back for a toy.  While I didn’t see how important it was then, as a parent I can now see where my parents were coming from.  While some kids asked for expensive items, most wished for only necessities for their families.

Kmart discounted our bulk purchase by 10% and the gifts were loaded into a truck.  A few days later the same group of volunteers gathered to wrap the hundreds of gifts.  And one week in December, my dad dressed as Santa and delivered the presents to each classroom.

Over the years the charity evolved, as all things do.  Some years my dad worked with the Department of Public Welfare, receiving addresses of the neediest families.  Other years he gave a monetary donation to a school.  One year when we were delivering to actual houses, our last stop was the Green family. There were seven children.  They lived on the 8th floor of an old apartment building in a rundown area of the city.  We pulled up in our van, and all seven children walked down eight flights of stairs and helped us unload their gifts.  When we got into their apartment, with a Christmas tree and a turkey for them to enjoy on Christmas, my dad saw they had no electricity.

All they had was a kitchen table, a few other pieces of furniture and mattresses on the floors.  The mother was a single mom.  But what I remember the most was how helpful the kids were.  How politely they spoke.  How excited they were to have an actual Christmas tree.  The floors were sparkling clean.  This family was an example of how even in the hardest of circumstances you can still take pride in what you DO have, even when it isn’t much.  You can still expect your kids to hold themselves with dignity, and to be grateful.

My dad immediately contacted the Department of Welfare and paid to have the Green’s heat and electricity back on.  He did this for the next several years until there was no longer contact information on the Greens.
My memories of working with my dad’s charity remain vivid, and the lessons I learned are priceless.  I can say with certainty I have not gone a Christmas season without sponsoring a child or grabbing a name from a tree in the mall since getting married and starting my own family.   My children have packed shoeboxes of goodies for kids in other countries, and donated jackets, toys and food to local organizations.  There is always a way to help a family in need, even if you don’t have much yourself.

At the end of the day we all belong to each other.  This is a lesson I want my kids to learn.

 


This holiday season let’s celebrate the good in others and all around us.   New York Life is encouraging people to go to their site and share photos of themselves or friends celebrating the good moments in life.  New York Life (@NewYorkLife) is donating 25 meals to Feeding America for every tweet that includes #KeepGoodGoing and the charity specific hashtag.

Very cool.

*Through 1/9/15, New York Life will donate $2.50 for each approved post, with a minimum of $25K & a maximum of $100K.
See full terms and conditions at NewYorkLife.com/CelebratingGood. Find info about Feeding America at feedingamerica.org
.


To be entered to win a $50 VISA Gift Card and have a $50 donation given on behalf of BlogHer in your name to Feeding America...comment and tell me:

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2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

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114 comments:

  1. I'm thankful for my husband and kids.

    mami2jcn at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  2. tweet:

    https://twitter.com/mami2jcn/status/539578660076781568

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am thankful for my family

    elena150980@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. https://twitter.com/ElenaIstomina/status/539609458159017984

    elena150980@yahoo.com

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  5. I am so thankful for another year I get to celebrate with my family and friends for the holiday season.

    Nicole.ddziedzic at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Posted via Twitter here -- https://twitter.com/lil_lady_dz/status/539622108465086464

    Nicole.ddziedzic at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am thankful for my husband and 2 kids.
    kellywcu8888ATgmailDOTcom

    ReplyDelete
  8. tweet
    https://twitter.com/Kellydpa/status/539627748017188865
    kellywcu8888ATgmailDOTcom

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am thankful for my Dad being here this Holiday season and not being sick anymore!! I am thankful that all of my sisters and brothers will be spending the Holidays with me! And I am so thankful for my new baby niece who was born a few weeks ago-healthy!

    jewelwood55(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  10. https://twitter.com/JewelWood/status/539787578736930816

    jewelwood55(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I am thankful for family friends and pets.
    heather hgtempaddy@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm thankful for my amazing family and most amazing gift of all; my three year old son.
    onefrugalgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  13. Tweet: https://twitter.com/OneFrugalGirl/status/540677668027793408
    onefrugalgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm thankful that my parents are still healthy and alive!
    madelinebrubaker {at} gmail [dot] com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Tweet link: https://twitter.com/shala_darkstone/status/541331632087523328
    madelinebrubaker {at} gmail [dot] com

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  16. That my husband's work in only five minutes away now -- makes a huge difference! We get to see him so much more. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am thankful for the good health of my family.
    tcarolinep at gmail dot com

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  18. -https://twitter.com/tcarolinep/status/541792247860060161

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  19. I'm thankful for my family and a warm, cozy house to live in!

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  20. i'm thankful for the many ways God has provided for us this past year pryfamily5@gmail.com

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  21. i tweeted https://twitter.com/thepryfamily2/status/542805474303688705 pryfamily5@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm thankful for my life and my family

    dlatany at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  23. https://twitter.com/sweetums82/status/543061185927462912

    dlatany at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm thankful that my spouse has a job. I don't, and I worry constantly about what might happen to us. But I'm very grateful for all the hard work he puts in to keep us going, and I tell him every day how much I appreciate him and his efforts.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I shared your inspirational blog post and the New York Life promotion on Twitter; here's the link:
    https://twitter.com/NotherAnneOther/status/543061993247109121
    Thank you, and happy holidays to you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I just had a baby one month ago. I'm thankful to have him
    tina19820115@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  27. https://twitter.com/HappyTina0115/status/543108368387170305

    ReplyDelete
  28. My children bring me so much happiness and joy

    mummytotwoboys@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  29. tweeted https://twitter.com/mummytotwoboys1/status/544239357125611521

    mummytotwoboys@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm thankful for my husband and two children

    s2s2 at cox dot net

    ReplyDelete
  31. https://twitter.com/susan1215/status/544867209483665408

    s2s2 at cox dot net

    ReplyDelete
  32. I AM THANKFUL FOR ALL I HAVE... FRIENDS, FAMILY, LOVE! afjakly@oakland.edu

    ReplyDelete
  33. 2ND ENTRY TWEET https://twitter.com/kytah00/status/545359705678168065 afjackly@oakland.edu

    ReplyDelete
  34. I am thankful for my family's health and happiness!

    Thanks for the chance to win!
    wildorchid985 AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  35. tweet--https://twitter.com/WildOrchid985/status/545715701651374081

    wildorchid985 AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  36. I'm thankful my mom's health is better this year than last!
    adrianecroos(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  37. I'm thankful for my daughter.
    bingomamanorma at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  38. https://twitter.com/rubylorikeet/status/548295631165345793

    ReplyDelete
  39. I'm thankful for my friends and family.

    ReplyDelete
  40. https://twitter.com/purplelover04/status/548589923528613888

    ReplyDelete
  41. Im so happy for my happy and healthy family!
    Shiebs24 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  42. https://mobile.twitter.com/shiebs24b/status/548690285966807040

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thankful for my family and my friends.

    rhoneygtn at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  44. I am thankful for my family and a steady job. It doesn't buy luxuries but it pays for all the necessities.

    willitara [at] gmail [dot] com

    ReplyDelete
  45. Tweet - https://twitter.com/willitara/status/548811868140077056

    willitara [at] gmail [dot] com

    ReplyDelete
  46. i am thankful my family is healthy

    ReplyDelete
  47. https://twitter.com/raggammuffin/status/548842648761421824

    ReplyDelete
  48. I am thankful for my husband and being married

    ReplyDelete
  49. https://twitter.com/LuLu_Brown24/status/549243597216702464

    ReplyDelete
  50. I am thankful for my family and my friends.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I'm thankful my recent biopsy for breast cancer came back benign.

    eswright18 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  52. tweeted
    https://twitter.com/eswright18/status/550030295911510016

    eswright18 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  53. Good Health. Even though my health isn't perfect, it could be worse and I still have some working parts to be thankful for. :)

    ReplyDelete
  54. https://twitter.com/Attea2d/status/550040213775720448

    ReplyDelete
  55. I am thankful for my family.

    fmd518 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  56. I am thankful for my family and being able to spend Christmas with my love ones. My brother and his family and my Dad live out of state and I’m so grateful that we are able to spend the Holidays together.
    Thanks so much
    rickpeggysmith(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  57. I tweeted: https://twitter.com/peg42/status/550053024815513600
    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I am thankful for my "in-laws". They are not really my in-laws, but my daughter's dad's family. I sort of decided to keep them even though I didn't keep him. Over the last 23 years, I don't know what I would've done without them! Wonderful people :)
    dmarie824 at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  59. tweet https://twitter.com/dmarie824/status/550059539936972801

    ReplyDelete
  60. I'm thankful for my friends and family.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I’m thankful for my 2 healthy daughters and my husband’s job.

    ReplyDelete
  62. thankful me mom is better after the operation - regnod(at)yahoo(d0t)com

    ReplyDelete
  63. I am thankful for God and family

    ReplyDelete
  64. I'm thankful that my family had a happy christmas with no illnesses or injuries!

    coriwestphal at msn dot com

    ReplyDelete
  65. Tweet: https://twitter.com/coriwestphal/status/550109397674754048

    coriwestphal at msn dot com

    ReplyDelete
  66. I am thankful for my grandchildren, one is 5 years and the other is 4 months. I am thankful we have a roof over our head and food on the table.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Mostly my husband, my faith and my family of son's, their wives and our grandchildren. god has continually provided for every need. Rosanne rosans4@comcast.net

    ReplyDelete
  68. Tweeted: https://twitter.com/rosannepm/status/550143442316439554 Rosanne rosans4@comcast.net

    ReplyDelete
  69. i am thankful for my home and my family

    debbiebellows (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  70. i posted a tweet here:

    https://twitter.com/bellows22/status/550150952972337152

    debbiebellows (at) gmail (dot) com


    ReplyDelete
  71. I'm so thankful for the grand kids.
    They bring so much joy to my life!
    thank you

    ReplyDelete
  72. Tweet https://twitter.com/JalapenoMama/status/550165875920080899

    ReplyDelete
  73. I'm thankful for my family.
    austma7@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  74. I am thankful for my miracle daughter. The doctors told me I would never get pregnant but with God's timing I did and I love her so much. countrycamogirl89@yahoo.com
    megan tilley

    ReplyDelete
  75. I am thankful that my family's together and safe this holiday season.

    ReplyDelete
  76. I am thankful my family has good health.

    ReplyDelete
  77. https://twitter.com/smilekisses/status/550230986248560641

    ReplyDelete
  78. I am thankfuld for my wife

    JOE GERSCH
    JOEBISSY@mail.com

    ReplyDelete
  79. I am thankful for Jill and Lauren.

    ReplyDelete
  80. I am thankful for music. That may sound shallow, but music is a daily part of my life and can make me happy when I am down and completely change my state of mind. I have had a lot of loss this year and music has often made the difference between a very hard day and a good one.
    Angie
    14earth at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  81. I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/MsTofuFairy/status/550320941440311296
    Angie
    14earth at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  82. im thankful for my family
    POKERGRL8 at gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  83. https://twitter.com/aes529/status/550322332523560960
    POKERGRL8 at gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  84. I am thankful for my daughters! :) They are truly awesome and wonderful people! I'm also thankful for life itself :) Things are pretty good right now and I hope they continue to be the same next year :)
    anastasia2013@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  85. Tweeted :) - https://twitter.com/Enter_Now/status/550330009131315200
    anastasia2013@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  86. I am thankful for my health and the health of my friends and family.
    motioncitycutie(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  87. I am thankful for my children, my grandchildren, and my husband.

    ReplyDelete
  88. I am so very thankful for my whole family

    ReplyDelete
  89. I'm thankful for my hard working husband and my healthy children.

    ReplyDelete
  90. I am thankful for my family.

    rounder9834 @yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  91. tweeted
    https://twitter.com/thomasmurphy40/status/550384987988447232

    rounder9834 @yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  92. Thankful for my three children.
    MCantu1019 at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  93. I am thankful that my children are healthy

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  94. tweet https://twitter.com/ChelleB36/status/550390891110617088

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  95. I am thankful for my wonderful husband who learned how to walk again after
    having a stroke and being told he would not walk again

    ReplyDelete
  96. I tweeted about the giveaway as @tmt121172 on 12/31/14 tracietrump40@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  97. I am thankful for being able to provide for myself and my family and for good health.

    ReplyDelete
  98. Tweet
    https://twitter.com/clc408/status/550404657994936322

    ReplyDelete
  99. I'm thankful for God and all his blessings this year and my hubby
    tweety800265(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  100. https://twitter.com/disneyfan40/status/550408036674568192
    tweety800265(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  101. I am thankful for a job that pays the bills. Thank you

    candieluster(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  102. I am thankful for my fiance.

    wlbellows at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  103. Tweet: https://twitter.com/electricstar/status/550411297792475137

    wlbellows at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  104. I am thankful that my family is happy and healthy

    ReplyDelete
  105. https://twitter.com/klp1965/status/550414976997806080

    ReplyDelete
  106. i am thankful for my family
    stigay at comcast.net

    ReplyDelete
  107. I'm thankful for life. :)

    SeasideMermaid@twc.com

    ReplyDelete
  108. I'm thankful for my family, good health and a good job!

    lahlstedt at gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  109. I am thankful for good friends, good health and a warm house.
    Thanks for the contest.

    slehan at juno dot com

    ReplyDelete
  110. https://twitter.com/slehan/status/550448428837117952

    slehan at juno dot com

    ReplyDelete

Throw in your two cents!