Maybe Christmas Doesn't Come From a Store.

How's everyone holding up with the hustle and bustle of the holidays? I'm pretty much a mush-brained crazy person who is looking forward to a long winter's nap in the very near future.

This week's holiday favorite things is about my favorite children's story: the magnificent "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." By Dr. Seuss. What a timeless classic that teaches an even more timeless lesson. I also love the Jim Carrey movie version but it's technically not my favorite holiday movie so it will get an honorable mention but that's about it. 

I am often reminded of the main theme of this story and that is, "does Christmas really come from a store?" But even more what years do I remember most from my childhood and adulthood? Are they the years of feast or famine? I posed this question to the masses via Facebook and Instagram and the answers were so moving. I will share them in a minute. With the exception of the year I got a Dance Club Barbie (with coordinating dance tape) my best memories of Christmas were the years of spending it with more people and less things. I was raised in a Mormon home and while I was in high school my dad was the leader of our local congregation. His official title was Bishop. During the holidays, well all the time really, but more so during the holidays, the bishop's family quickly becomes a center for attention. Extra treat plates, cute gifts from the children and an unspoken expectation to take care of the needy who have no one else. Now for a bunch of punk teenagers, the LAST thing we wanted to do was take care of the needy in our congregation. They smelled funny and made us uncomfortable. But my parents prevailed and one year we decided that we would go, as a family, to the rest homes and assisted living care units to sing carols on Christmas Eve. I am telling you what, we were NOT thrilled. The rest home was especially challenging because they are the complete opposite of holiday cheer. But we did it. One of the widows we visited was blind so in order for her to know we were there we had to squeeze her hand and tell her who we were.  Each of us did it and then we started singing carols from our hymnbook. In the dim light of this dear blind lady's room, I looked over and saw her roommate laying in her bed, mouthing the words along with us with a tear glistening in her eye. That's been close to 15 years ago and I can still remember how it made me FEEL. No idea what my gifts were that year, but it was an unforgettable Christmas.

The best Christmas I remember as an adult was the year I implemented my own tradition of anonymous Secret Santa. It was my 2nd year as a working adult and I had a co-worker who was desperately struggling to hold on to her sanity and be a single mom with poor health and no money. I ADORED her and it broke my heart to see her struggle so much. In this particular job we always got a holiday bonus that was a percentage of our annual salary. Even for a lowly teller that was a good chunk of change. I decided, along with the wife of a VP, that we would send something to her in the mail as her Christmas guardian angels. And that we did. I'll never forget the day she came to work with the card in hand, in tears, telling us that she had experienced a Christmas miracle and could buy groceries for her kids. I could tell you pages and pages of stories, but most of them are so dear to my heart and are not intended to be broadcast and initiate bravado. 

Do you ever feel like you have the Grinch sitting on your shoulder, whispering in your ear, "screw sharing. You earned this money, you go right ahead and spend unholy amounts on frivolous things for yourself." It might look something like this....

Well, allow me to share with you two experiences from dear friends of mine about their most memorable Christmases. I think you'll find that they too were the most blessed by those around them looking out for their family during times of trial or "famine."

The first is from K: 
"Famine for sure. R has had lots of medical issues and one Christmas we had so many medical bills that we weren't going to be able to do much for Christmas. Someone was anonymously "Santa" for our family. Left my kids voice mails from him, letters, presents, stockings, food. They did something every day for a whole month. I will never forget it. I would say I mostly remember events because it's all about who you're with."

The next is from L:
"The years which remain the clearest are the ones with disparity. Being older than my sis. and bro. I knew money was tight, so I asked for small things or things I knew the family needed. Which I got, the dish drying rack, the shower curtain, the toilet seat (I hated that the old one with the crack pinched my bum). One year I got a hand-me-down coat, and the younger children got brand new "cool" coats. Or the year I didn't ask for anything fancy, I don't even remember what I did receive, but the littles got new bicycles.  The disparity bites.  Or there was the year I asked for one thing. A sage green T-shirt with tiny lettering across the front (so small it looked like a simple stripe from a distance) which read X-Files. I listed the mall, store, and rack location on my Christmas list.  Instead I got a black shirt with The X-Files boldly emblazoned across it, and a full back garish graphic from an episode about a boy possessed by the devil. With the shirt I also got a curling iron. That was the year my hair was about an inch and a half long. It had the $1.50 clearance sticker still on it, and my sil's niece called her out about having given the same iron to her other niece the week before for her birthday, but she hadn't wanted it.
...Yeah... I have to say the crappy Christmases stick out the most.
I have one happy one, an older sister gave me a teddy bear one year when I was really little, I named him Chocolate Chip because he had brown eyes and a brown nose and tan fur, so he looked like a cookie."

I had hoped for a few more responses, but these two, along with my own experiences, proved my point which is the same as this classic book. Christmas does not come from the store. Christmas is WAY more. And when those Who's down in Who-Ville woke up and started to sing, sing, sing in spite of their village being pillaged, what happened to the green man??? His cold heart grew three sizes.  This year has been a trying year for me personally, but I am deeply grateful for the blessings I've received.  

As humans we all have the same thing in common, hearts that beat and hearts that ache when life is hard. The greatest blessings that we can receive are when we get out of our own selfish brains and look for ways to help those around us. Quit worrying about the newest and fanciest toy or gadget and take the time to notice if your neighbors are OK or if they need a meal, a hug or two or ten or some anonymous holiday cheer. I promise you that it will make your holiday the most memorable and you will look back on it with fondness.

The moral of the story: sing sing and sing some more while you make someone's holiday merry very!
Until next time, my lovelies!

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