R-A-K It Up

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. ...

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Title page. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Random Acts of Kindness. What better time than at Christmas to do a little surprise something for somebody? It’s a time, as Dickens said in the Christmas Carol, “…when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices.”

Why bother? Do it and you’ll see.

I imagine you’ll find that it’s not even necessary to stick around and see the person’s reaction. Trust me.

Slow down from the craziness of the season and pay attention to those around you. The woman who just ran over your foot with a cart and didn’t apologize may be fretting over her child who has to spend Christmas in the hospital. What about your garbage man who has to brush off the snow to even find your pile of trash? How ‘bout leaving him a note and thermos of hot chocolate? What can you do that would ease a person or bring a boost of encouragement?

It’s the small things. The unexpected. The unlooked for…that can make a big difference. Confirm that someone cares and notices them in this bustling world…that they’re not alone. If you’re a believer, also leave a note that says God loves them…in case they’ve forgotten.

Here’s a list of ideas to randomly act with kindness and make someone’s day. I take no credit for this list or the idea. I’m just passing it on. By no means is the list complete, but it should get the generous gears in your mind turning. This is a reminder for myself—as much as for you—not to get so preoccupied as to miss what’s important…what this holiday is really about.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. God bless us every one.Christmas in Germany

Volunteering Your Voice

We use our voices to let our opinions be known, to communicate what matters to us and promote awareness of causes we believe deserve immediate attention, but one of its most beautiful uses is…to sing.

There is something about the singing voice that transcends barriers between us all…especially at this time of year. Often, we don’t even have to hear the words. It is more the feeling it conveys. (A difficult thing for me to admit as an aspiring writer, who relies on the written word).

Recently, the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and 650 choristers from the area gathered at Macy’s Center City Philadelphia, to intermingle with the public going about their holiday business and offer them the gift of their voices.

Over the last few years, in particular, I’ve heard of choral groups and dance troupes gathering in busy places like train stations and student centers to give freely of their talents and lighten people’s hearts. I’ve had this video sent to me by a couple of different friends and thought I’d pass it along….the modern version of Christmas caroling.

A Different Kind of Gift Catalog

During the holidays, my mailbox is flooded with catalogs from Pottery Barn to the most random one-offs that sell leopard print, stiletto shoe wine holders and fancy-pants steam jet, jewelry cleaning machines. But over the last few years, I’ve also started receiving gift catalogs far more unusual. They are from humanitarian organizations.

People often make contributions at this time of year and these days, when contemplating giving to an organization, we want the specifics on where our money is going. In response to this, some humanitarian organizations now offer full-color, pictorial catalogs that describe very specific items and projects for which you can purchase to donate. You shop through the catalog and choose which you’d like to support.

Here are a few examples from Samaritan’s Purse catalog:

  • Mosquito nets for malaria prevention ($10)
  • Emergency shelter (for disaster victims) ($130 or you can purchase a share of the cost at $13).
  • Rescue a Child from Exploitation ($75). This, I think, needs a little more explanation. It provides a rescued child with basic necessities, safe shelter, job training and counseling.

They are tangible. They are specific. And, they let you choose to support a cause that matters to you perhaps for a very personal reason.

Heifer International is another organization that has embraced this gift catalog. In fact, they were the first I ever received. They focus on livestock and agricultural programs as ways to provide a source of income and self-reliance.

A couple of years ago, some good friends of mine made a donation in my name to help a family in the Andes, making me the proud contributor to the cost of a llama (or alpaca…I can’t remember which, and wouldn’t know the difference anyway). But, I thought it was great.

It might be a nice idea to go through one of these catalogs with your children—as a way to see another side of Christmas beyond what they hope to find under the tree. But be prepared. If they are anything like my nieces, I can pretty much guarantee they are going to pick a cute flock of chicks or Angora rabbits to donate. But then, it could be a lesson on what these animals can provide to help their owners. Just a thought.

Have you received these types of catalogs? What do you think of them?

A Particular Sound that Marks the Christmas Season

I was in New York City a couple weeks ago for a writers’ conference and during some free time, a friend and I headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What struck me as soon as we got out of the cab was not only the massive columns of the grand entrance, but the sound of a bell. A light…crisp…and comforting sound of holiday seasons gone by. It was the little, hand-held bell of the Salvation Army volunteer standing in front of the museum steps, calling us in an unspoken and cheerful way to remember the less fortunate at a time of the year when ‘want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices‘. (Dickens)

To me, this sound is part of Christmas. Macy’s must agree, because I took this photo of one of their famous window displays this year.