ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

 

SOMEONE ELSE'S CHRISTMAS

Devastation.

That's the only word I can think of that adequately describes what I saw in my living room last Christmas morning.

Complete, total, utter devastation.

Shreds of paper that were once part of beautifully wrapped gifts. Boxes torn asunder by hyper little hands anxious to see what was inside. Tattered ribbon. Half-eaten suckers. Old clothes and new, wildly strewn about. And piles of instructions, most of them in Japanese, and most of them already blatantly disregarded.

It was a disaster area, a Christmas cataclysm of apocalyptic proportions.

And it was devastating.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. Last year was supposed to be a lean Christmas, one in which our gifts would largely come from the heart, not the pocketbook. Things were tight, and we tried to brace the kids for a Spartan Christmas.

Assuming, of course, that the Spartans celebrated Christmas.

But an unexpected bonus came along a few days before Christmas and . . . well, we went a little crazy with it. Our lean Christmas became an abundant Christmas. The kids had a great time, but to tell the truth, they were overwhelmed by it. I don't think they really appreciated all that they received. In fact, I'm pretty sure several gifts were tossed out with the clutter and never missed.

As I stood there in the living room, knee-deep in excess and indulgence, I couldn't help but think of families in our area who were experiencing real devastation in their lives that Christmas morning. Some were unemployed. Others were experiencing painful family crises illness, abuse, separation, divorce. We hadn't planned to do much to help, because quite frankly, for most of the month of December we were among those in need. But when our "blessing" came in, it didn't even occur to us to use any of it to bless others. We were so obsessed with our own perceived "struggles" that we hadn't given much thought to anyone else. And now we were surrounded by plenty more than plenty and I was feeling empty. Hollow. Guilty.

You know devastated.

Anita and I talked about that feeling a lot as this holiday season has approached, and we decided that we never want to feel that way again. So after 23 Christmases of struggling to take care of ourselves, we're instituting a new family tradition this year by adding a new name to the Christmas shopping list: Someone Else. We don't know who Someone Else is, we've never met them. We just know they're a young family in need, and we're going to do what we can to help them even if that means having less for ourselves. We've been talking about Someone Else in all of our shopping and planning, and even our little ones are getting into the spirit of things. They're thinking about Someone Else, and that has done wonders for the spirit around our home this Christmas.

Of course, I don't pretend that this idea is new. Most of you have probably been doing something for Someone Else for years, and experiencing the joy that comes from making a difference in Someone Else's Christmas. But to those who haven't, won't you join us in establishing a new holiday tradition this year? The way I see it, it's never too late to start thinking of Someone Else.

And to stop living room devastation.

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--- © Joseph Walker

http://www.sfpnn.com/joseph_walker1.htm

 

Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.