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Skip a Latte Wednesday: Emancipate

4 Dec

“In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”        ~Abraham Lincoln

Emancipation could not fail.  It had to happen.  I feel in a lot of ways in my American culture, generosity cannot be allowed to fail either.  In so many ways our clothing of freedom, grace, and humanity has become tattered because of our lack of generosity to our fellow man.

It’s something that’s been beaten to death really: the internet gives us so many chances to be critical of others, of ourselves.  We can call someone’s boobs fake, someone’s ass huge, and someone’s shiny car pretentious.  We can lambast someone’s ideas which to them make them feel free.  We can also silently pine over dogs, boyfriends, even lives which are better than ours through the window that social media gives us into our friend’s lives.

I want you to take a moment and think about someone in your life who is very generous.  They give of their time, talents, even money to help others have a spectacular day.  If you’re like me the first person to pop into my head is much, much older than myself.  You see?  Because generosity is a dying art.

Welcome to my first in a series I’m calling “Skip a Latte Wednesday,” where we forego 1 cup of America’s most acceptable addiction in favor of doing good with that five dollars.  This month I’ll be showcasing some worthy charities and hopefully our collective five dollars can make a difference around this time of year.  This first week, perhaps, is the most personal of the weeks.

Take some time to read about a cash money challenge given by a minister in Sherborn, Massachusetts:  http://www.wbur.org/kindworld/2013/12/03/a-ministers-challenge-use-this-gift-for-good

Now some of you might be thinking a bit revolutionarily here: I want you to actually get five dollars cash money.  And I want you to do this by the end of this week.  I want you to place that five dollars cash money separate from any of the other cash money you keep in your wallet.  In a different pocket if you don’t carry a wallet.  And here’s what I want you to do with it: keep your ears and eyes open for a way to bring generosity into someone else’s life.

I’ve only got one rule for you: it can’t be passive.  Sure it’s nice to buy the next cup of coffee in line at the drive through coffee place.  Also, it’s nice to drop a five dollar tip into the jar at the sub shop.  But with this five dollars.  This Lincoln’s picture, I want you to actually hand it to someone as a gesture of generosity.  Be creative.  You don’t have to say anything about why you have it, or you can tell them something about why you do, or why you’re participating.  I leave it up to you.

Be generous.  I dare you.  Be generous in a tangible, personal way.  Share your stories if you like.  But do it.  You’d be surprised what a difference five dollars can sometimes make.

five-dollar-bill

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Expectation

2 Dec

“It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.”      ~Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkein

Have you noticed something about this time of year?  It is this time of year that most peoples of our hemisphere celebrate light.  Those who are Jewish celebrate lamps which always stayed lit through darkest times.  The Pagans place various forms of light onto evergreen (never dying) trees.  Christians speak of a “light of the world” appearing in darkness.  Even that great American commercialization asks us to seek relief from the dark, wee hours of Black Friday by making purchases.  We enter this season of darkness by placing lights on our homes, extra lights in our homes, and warm, rich colors.

Most Christian churches speak of this time as Advent.  Advent is simply defined as an arrival.  There are several ways to approach the four Sundays leading to Christmas Eve and day.  One is to assign broad themes to those weeks and then ruminate on them.  Take time to prepare for the arrival of Christmas.

I know that a fair share of my readers are not hardcore participants in the traditions of the Christian church, but I think there are some overarching themes to be found, needs of most human beings during this sometimes harried time of year lead us toward these themes. It’s what draws us all back to the Charlie Brown Christmas year after year.  We wish to find peace, joy, the “real” meaning of Christmas.

It is not my intent in writing these missives every Monday leading up to Christmas to convert you to a brand, a belief, or really anything more than just allowing you a bit of time to sit, think, perhaps sip a hot drink (you decide if that baby’s spiked), maybe dim the lights, and have quiet.  In the Bible’s Christmas story, it is said that Mary, Jesus’ mother, “treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart,”  my wish for you is to treasure some things and ponder them in your heart.

Christmas-Tree-Light-1024x682

In some traditions, this week of Advent is to focus on “Hope.”  “Expectation, a desire for a very specific thing to happen.”  Hope is a bit further up the line than say a wish, or even a dream really.  For me hope is almost something that I cling to and trust will come to be.  And for some reason that trust doesn’t waiver for me.

I think it is that unwaiveringness that allows me to fall so deeply for modern fantasies written in the Tolkeinian vein: where several times things seem they can get no darker, and then there is light and good wins once more.  It’s that tightness in your chest when you hold your breath and then suddenly the great draft of air which fills your lungs when you once again inhale deeply.

In the very beginning of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, we see Dream of the Endless, The Sandman, engaged in battle with a Duke of Hell for a valued item of his which was stolen.  After this demon plays the card of being “anti-life, the Beast of Judgement.  I am the dark at the end of everything.  The end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything…and what will you be then, Dream Lord?”  The Sandman crosses his arms, and replies, “I am hope.”  Win.

Several years ago, I accompanied a dear, cherished friend of mine to a Children’s Hospital in Denver with her daughter.  Her daughter had been all over, talked to many doctors and still there seemed to be no end in sight for her crippling abdominal pain.  I sat in the room when the doctor very skeptically declared (with our darling one in the room with us) that the pain was merely psychological, in her head, a manifestation of her perfectionism.  And I watched a little girl become saddled with the reality that some adults, important ones even, may not believe her when she says her tummy hurts.

Very thankfully, my friend’s mommy carries the same hot blooded tenacity that I do, and armed with her strongest mama bear spirit, with hope that there was a solution that didn’t involve blaming her child, she blazed a trail through many hospitals.  This year I am honored to have been present as we finally found the more important person who believed every word my not as small anymore friend said.  Even better, she proposed something which represents forward thinking in the doctoring community: though our friend is so young, her gall bladder was bad, and all of those years of pain were that little organ turning from its lovely robin’s egg blue to nasty green and yellow; spitting out stones and just in general being not very fun to have around.  I giggled and talked with a very excited little girl before she went into surgery, and sat with a very woozy, groggy beautiful little girl who reported and continues to report that the pain has completely ceased.  The beauty of the arrival of pain free living was sweet and joyous.  A great reward for many of us.

So whether you see your hope through your cunning wit wielded alone doing battle with the legions of the under realms, or if you see your hope revealed through friends joining you in this battle, I say it can and will be seen.

There are many traditions who chase the darkness of this season closing in by lighting a candle.  That new light burning where there once wasn’t light (or light as intense anyway).  Perhaps there are parts of your life where there isn’t any light, or the light isn’t as intense.  I urge you – take some time to light a candle.  Ponder the flame.  Ponder the tenacity of that expectation.  Remember that very few things are beyond all doubt.  And do not despair.  Hope.

Prepare

1 Dec

We are now in December!  I didn’t quite make it to my “three days a week blogging” goal, but I certainly blogged a lot more and have found that I kind of love it.

I wanted to lay out what December’s gonna look like for you, my dearest reader.  This month will be full of many things.  In churchy words, this is the season of Advent, which merely means anticipation, waiting for an arrival.  We enter the darkest time of the year with the approaching Winter Solstice, and many prepare by adding light to our households; whether by menorahs, or Christmas lights, or trees, or adorning our homes with light.

Since it is always a time of year that I take to reflect on so many things, Mondays will be a time for reflection.  For myself and hopefully for you.  I want to make your Monday reading time a time to pause, reflect, and hopefully to bring some light into these ever increasing dark nights of December.

This is also a time of year when we ponder our generosity.  And so this December I’m going to bring you “Skip the Latte Wednesdays,” where we talk about skipping that Wednesday latte and giving to those that are considered “the least of these.”  To bring light into someone’s dark place.  This “Skip the Latte Wednesday” will feature charities that I feel are worth your five dollars.

This is also the time of year when we spend more time with those we hold dear.  On Fridays, I’ll be reviewing one of the Christmas movies from my list of unwatched films and tv shows and sharing with you my thoughts.  Then hopefully that will put them in mind for you to enjoy with your dearest ones with a nice big bowl of popcorn (either real or microwave) and perhaps a tasty beverage.

So there you have it:  December’s plan.  May you begin December with light in your heart, and joy for the season.  And may you also find peace during a time which seems so chaotic.  See you tomorrow!

Candles