Friday, November 16, 2007

Sunday Scribblings - "I Carry" Friday 11/16/07

This week’s prompt of “I carry” came at exactly the right time. I knew in moments what I had to write about. Could we please have a prompt next week that I can go back to “writing with a smirk”? It is much less painful..

I carry with me a heavy sadness that manifests itself during the Holiday Season. At no time is the disparity between the haves and the have-nots more evident than as Christmas approaches. The first pangs arrived today as I stood in front of a Salvation Army Angel Tree. I am certain that most people know what that is but in the event that one of my readers is from Neptune where there are no trees, or Dubai where there is no poverty, I will explain. The first name of a needy child is placed on a placard and hung from a Christmas tree. Along with the name is a present request and clothing sizes for the child. I am not sure how the children are selected as needy. I guess it is arbitrarily determined that there is a breakpoint for those in need and those not. I feel sorry for that child who barely misses the cut for needy and does not qualify for an anonymous gift. Anyway, you just select a child at random and provide some hope for Christmas. It is a great program and I participate every year.



One of the main reasons I participate in the Angel Tree is that in 1960, had they had such a program, I would have qualified. The Bunker Hill Company, which my dad worked for, was on strike for 220 days in 1960, ending on December 10th. We were living in Wyoming, where dad could find work in uranium mines, though he longed for the relative safety of lead (not much of a choice there). So a few days before Christmas we left Wyoming in a blizzard for northern Idaho, on bald tires and an 8 cylinder, running on about 5. Somewhere along the journey my dad purchased a Lionel electric train that I had been clamoring for. He did not have money for the necessities of life, but felt I needed a Christmas Present. My memories of all my 55 Christmases blend together but I remember Christmas that year more than any other. I remember it with a great sadness, which I have carried with me all these years. I know that I should be happy that my dad loved me enough to sacrifice for me. But I am not. I have carried with me a certain amount of guilt that a Holiday put him in that situation. I have sorrow that the Christmas Holiday has such a potential for sadness and disappointment. Most of all, I have remorse that I probably never said thank you for that sacrifice.


As I selected a child to sponsor, the sadness came in torrents. It is not a child’s fault that they are born into a situation by which they are deemed needy. It is not their presence that caused a parent to be unemployed, uneducated, unreliable, unlucky, unacceptable, untrained, unambitious, unappealing, unbefitting, uncoachable, unclean, unadept, undatable, uncultured, unequipped, undesirable, uneducable, unethical, unhirable, unfavored, unpolished, unpaid, unpardoned, unpleasing, unpolished, unlikable, unlaundered, unloving, unmanageable, unmotivated, unneighborly, unnamable, unprivileged, unprized, unrealistic, unproven, unpurified, unreceptive, unrestrained, unrespectable, unrefined, unremarkable, unabsolved, unacademic, unacclaimed, unaccomplished, unacquitted, unappreciated, unaromatic, unwed, unworkable, unsterilized, unsuitable, unteachable, unthrifty, unutilized, unvalued, undignified, undiplomatic, undiagnosed, uninsured, or unendowed. But, it is not necessarily the parents’ fault that they are needy. My dad was certainly not culpable. He was many of the uns listed above, but none by his own doing. He was a victim of circumstances. Yes, sometimes it is by their own choices: Alcoholism, drug addiction, laziness, abusiveness, abandonment, etc., but not always.



There are no guarantees that Charli, a 12-year-old girl who likes Hannah Montana and the High School Musical will actually receive the gifts I purchase for her. In the back of my mind is the vision of her guardian selling the size 14 pants to buy drugs. But I have to try. Maybe Charli’s daddy is just a victim of circumstances. Charli deserves to feel special, at least at Christmas.

29 comments:

Steve said...

Kind of makes you think eh?

Lucy said...

we have to have faith especially durning the holidays that these children WILL get the gifts they are given and deserve. Again another touching glimpse in Mr. Whale... ( even without you saying it... He Knew how grateful you were. :)

myrtle beached whale said...

I can always count on Lucy.

Just Jen said...

What a fantastic post! I am positive your father knew how thankful you were! Absolutely positive. Parents know we love them, even if we don't say it. some things don't need to be said, even if they should be. parents know. I know my boys love me, I know they are thankful. I just know. My boys have been a recipient of the Salvation Army Angel Tree, and from Hubby and I to the buyers of the gifts, We say THANK YOU!! We had hit on hard times in the past, and that tree gave our children what we couldn't. As you said, it's not always drugs, alcohol or abuse, even though at times, sadly it is. We weren't in that category, we were in the category of uns' and we thank you. We now, are the givers to that tree, and we are thankful for that too! I pray that child gets your gift! It is well deserved, I am sure....

Laini Taylor said...

This is a very moving post -- and a really good reminder at this time of year when the stores are already gearing up for the glut of the holidays. A couple of years ago a pub my husband and I were at had a tree, I'm not sure who sponsored it, it might have been Salvation Army; we were having some beers when a woman came in to deliver two brand new, very nice children's bicycles to the tree -- it was what her father had asked that his daughters do that year in lieu of a gift. That was a cool thing to see. The story of your train set makes me really sad too, but to carry a story like that with you always, that's the kind of stuff that makes a person who they are -- the kind of person who always picks a tag off the Salvation Army tree when plenty of others don't. Cheers.

myrtle beached whale said...

Thank you Jen and Laini: It is all about "paying it forward." Nothing makes me happier than shopping for those few items for a needy person, unless it is reading comments on my post from great people.

Awareness said...

beautifully expressed. I work with people who due to circumstances, shit luck, poor choices, addictions, abuse, illness and/or many other reasons end up on social assistance. In the 20 years I have worked with individuals caught in the culture and cycle of poverty, I have met only a handful who didn't want to pull themselves out of that bare existance. Whether they had the capacity to do it is another story, but their wants and desires have been genuine. Lots of "uns."

This week, I have had many conversations with the human beings whom I have met with about making sure they get their name in for a food hamper and the angel tree for their kids. This act is by far the most difficult to perform.......much more so than applying for welfare in the first place. I am amazed at how symbolically demeaning it makes them feel. 2 or 3 times this week, I made the phone call for them from my office because I knew there was a deadline to get your name in and I didn't want some child to go without because the parents were too overwhelmed to follow through.
AND, I always made sure that they realized that just because they need it this year, doesnt mean that they couldn't PAY it forward next year, or at least volunteer putting the hampers together this year.

From here on until Christmas, the stories i hear become more poignant, more heart wrenching, more sad simply because of the wealth and materialism AND the expectations put on all of us to spend, spend, spend.

I also had a wonderful conversation with a young woman this week who has every right not to feel hope again. But she does. Despite the unbelievable life and hardship she has had to endure, she has hope that her life will turn around. And she believes her life has meaning. Her faith grounds her......and gives her hope. Her understanding that being poor doesn't mean being poor in spirit......that Jesus understood what it was like to live in the margins of society fills her with focus and hope. Amazing really!

I looked at the angel tree in the local mall yesterday with my son. I explained to him what it was all about. Then, we chose an angel request and went off to fulfill the wish. He felt SO good about it. his awareness is increasing..... and I'm glad.

Your father was an angel. And you are too. Let go of your burden because it came from unconditional love......... I bet it was one of the most important things he did in his life......

sorry this was so long......

myrtle beached whale said...

Awareness:

thank you for that. it was not too long.

Redness said...

It always catches my eye and makes me smile when I see " I don't know what I want to be when I grow up" on your blog! You're there! Your honest, generous, inspiring and genuine understanding experience makes you sensational ... we're so fortunate to read you ... Thank YOU!

Jenn said...

Your post certainly gives one pause. It should be read from every pulpit in every church in America, in addition to many other places.

Beautifully written, obviously from the heart, and extremely thought provoking.

Thanks for visiting my brand-new site:
www.mixedmetaphor.net!

January said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog, which lead me back here to your moving post.

The holidays are a tough time. I'm sure your father knew how much this gift meant to you. And I like the idea of paying it forward. What an inspiration.

I have two young kids under 4, and I've been struggling how to show my oldest that there's more to the season that just presents. Maybe the Salvation Army trees are a way into the conversation.

gautami tripathy said...

Holiday season does that to me too. I am happy and very peppy and suddenly there are black clouds...

Matthew said...

Thanks for giving me pause before the onslaught of the gift-buying season. There are no guarantees that the money you raise will find its way into the needy life of a child but your generosity sends out ripples that touch more lives than you can imagine. Powerful post!

pia said...

Every child deserves to be special all year.

It's a very beautiful, very moving post

I'm moving to North Myrtle this winter--never saw a blogger from there before

Found you through Gautami. Will be back

myrtle beached whale said...

well Pia,
I am a transplant, like yourself. We are not all uneducated rednecks. LOL

paisley said...

thank you for this little window into your world.. and your heart....

tumblewords said...

A wonderful post. For most of us, it's a tiny step between being and un. And until you've been there...
The Bunker Hill part caught the attention of this Idaho redneck - I've been in Myrtle Beach - played golf at Possum Trot in my other life!

myrtle beached whale said...

Paisley:

It is definitely a little window but thanks for looking in.

Tumblewords:

I love Possum Trot. In my other life I was a good golfer. In this life I am hopeless. I am in the woods so much I get cards on Arbor Day.

Jo said...

A very moving post, on so many fronts. I am just working on a poem about the operation christmas child box we put together the other day. Christmas, hell, life, is hard for so many.

myrtle beached whale said...

Hopefully, next week I can get back into my comfort zone of banality and sophomoric humor. The REAL me.

tricia stirling said...

this is wonderful. thank you for these reminders. and i agree with those who say your father knew how greatful you were/are. he made the sacrifice for himself too, you know? so that he could see so much joy on his son's face Christmas morning. for a parent, there is nothing better than that.

forgetfulone said...

Wow. You have really made the disparity so real. My neighbor sponsors a whole family each year, and I do what I can to help. And I assist with the Angel Tree program at my church. All of our Angel kids are children of a parent who is incarcerated. We personally take them their gifts and visit with them. Very powerful post.

myrtle beached whale said...

My son, Josh, after reading this blog had a very interesting and valid observation:

"I do the trees and fostering hope as well. I have the same feeling but it always makes me feel better that if there is one thing this season does, it always brings these kids to our attention. At what other time of year do you even give them a second thought. It is more sad that it always comes down to "out of sight out of mind." When the trees aren't there these poor kids have no one thinking about them. What about birthday trees. :)"

Damn, I raised him well.

ana said...

A valuable thought provoking post, heartfelt and beautiful. Thanks for sharing...

Rose said...

I love the Christmas Tree angel program. Right now I do it myself, but I think next year my daughter will be old enough to help me pick a child and the present for that child.

In the same vein I love to participate in the school bag programs run in the beginning of the year. I remember the joy of having a brand new back pack and school supplies and I go to town picking fun erasers, notebooks, folders, etc. I know that for that child it's not as fun as picking our his or her own stuff, but it has to be better than generic, or even used, supplies.

As for the train... I can only imagine that being able to buy you that train must have been reward enough for your dad. Maybe hope that he'd be able to get you the perfect Christmas Present is what kept him going through what must have been a terrible year.
I agree with Lucy, no doubt he knew how grateful you were.

(Thanks for stopping by my blog!)

sundaycynce said...

Thanks, MBW, for the wonderful reminder of what Christmas spirit is really all about.

I agree about your father surely knowing how much you appreciated that train and with (I think it was)Rose who said that may have been what actually MADE Christmas for him that year: buying you that one gift you wanted so much.

You certainly are justifiably proud of your son.

I also do the Angel Tree through my church, we do that and a second tree for a needy family in our area. My understanding of the Angel Tree also is that the parents of those children are incarcerated somewhere but they have made those special requests for their child and whatever we get is taken to those children by the people at church who volunteered for that part of it. The name on the gift tag as the giver is either Santa or the incarcerated parent: Mommy or Daddy.

Go Figure said...

Great insight and thoughtfulness.
best regards.

Go Figure said...

I remember those legendary strikes in the valley. Your post is a holiday gift to all who read it. Thank you.

gel said...

Hi,
I'm here from Sun. Scribblings. Whenever you have doubts about making a difference, look at ANY child's smile and know that YOU put a smile on another child's face. That you fulfilled a "Santa" wish is a silent hug. Although, presents aren't necessities, love is.

I also hope that you can Unburden yourself from feeling guilty all those years ago. Young children don't know better and there's all this peer and materialism pressure. It's not your fault your dad wanted to get you a gift.

My very best wishes to you, this holiday season from the once little girl who received "an old set of keys" as a present and loved them.One never forgets being "one of those who could have been a recepient of charity."
BTW, the S.Army is one of the main places we donate to all during the year, as we clear out our things or pare down for those less fortunate.