Cumberland Times-News

December 29, 2012

Who says Christmas is over? No, it isn’t

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Christmas has now come and gone — for most people, anyway, but not for all of us, including me. The spirit that Christmas represents should be with us every day.

I go to church on Christmas Eve, then Christmas is a day of rest and whatever happens to come with it, which means alternating between TV and naps.

Some of my friends and relatives (the closest of whom lives 80 miles away) tell me they hate the idea of my being alone on Christmas. Bless their hearts.

I’m not sure when the last time was I actually felt that I was alone, but it’s been a long time.

Somehow, somebody else is always there; maybe even more than one somebody. How I know that is hard to describe, but other folks have told me they feel the same way.

Alone is one thing. Lonely is another. I get to feeling lonely now and then, but it doesn’t happen very often and when it does, it’s my fault.

Something usually takes place to snap me out of it, and I get along with life. The same thing also happens on the rare occasions that I am feeling sorry for myself.

When I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I buy only one Christmas present — for the fellow who played Santa Claus at the Lions Club Christmas party — that wasn’t true.

I buy two. One goes with me to the Marine Corps League Christmas party, and I leave it for a child I will never meet as part of the Corps’ Toys for Tots program.

This year, it was a small black and white teddy bear. You can never go wrong giving a teddy bear to a little kid, and this one was a smaller version of the teddy bear my parents gave me for Christmas years ago.

There’s a photo of me holding the little fellow next to the Christmas tree. I’m wearing my brand-new Hopalong Cassidy outfit.

You should reach the point where the gifts you give mean more to you than the gifts you receive. The reward is far greater. You might not be able to see the smile on your own face, but you can see it on someone else’s.

Sandy Claus (Michael Sciaraffo) started with $500 of his own money, then got more than $2,000 in donations, to provide Christmas toys for youngsters who were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

Likewise, gifts poured in from all over the world for the kids of Newtown, Conn., site of the school shooting. It included more than 50,000 teddy bears.

Christmas is winning the war.

One year, I was at a loss as to what to give Grandmother Goldsworthy, who loved small children and small animals, so I gave her a poster of a fuzzy white puppy nuzzling a fuzzy white kitten.

She threw back her head, crowed and made such a fuss over it that I was stunned. Every year after that, I gave her a similar poster and got the same reaction.

Grandmother occasionally had a photographer friend come in and take a photo that she would send to her friends and family members, and she always posed in front of her wall full of these posters. They’re now in my home, on the walls of my childhood bedroom.

Likewise, I ran out of gift ideas for my mother, so I gave her a decorative bell. Her reaction was similar to the one produced by Grandmother’s posters.

I kept giving her those bells, and other people began doing the same thing, and mine were always the last for her to open.

The routine was always the same: She would look at the package and say, softly and gently, “This is my love gift.”

She took some of her bells around to her women’s clubs and gave talks about them and told folks when and from whom she got them.

The bell I would have given her for Christmas 1995 wound up on the tree in the hospice unit at Memorial Hospital, where she spent her last 10 days. My father and I figured that would be an appropriate place for it.

After Dad passed away, the only thing in the house I really cared about was those bells.

So I gave them and their cabinet to our friends Dean Nofzinger and Jean Burton at the Markwood Funeral Home, along with a plaque that had a photo of Mom, Dad and me with an explanation of the bells’ significance.

My feeling was that folks who needed some comforting might find a bit of it in seeing those bells and reading about them, and I’ve been told that’s what frequently happens.

Gifts are where you find them, and sometimes they are totally unexpected.

Something has been bothering one of my closest friends, and she hasn’t let on to others what it is. Her idea is to be a tower of strength for others. Recently, that tower crumbled a bit, and she broke down and told some of us what was wrong.

“I’m lonely,” she sobbed, and we jumped all over that. We told her how very much loved she is, and that any time she needs us, we’ll be there. We meant that, too.

That is in keeping with Goldy’s Rule 111: There are times when the best thing you can say to someone else is, “You are not alone. I am here with you.”

The gift my friends and I received in this case was that now, we know what’s wrong with our loved one and can work together to fix it.

I went to the Royal Restaurant for the annual Christmas party Bill and Debbie Shipway and the staff have held for special needs folks and their caregivers. Bill has passed away, but we felt that he was there with us.

Everyone got a dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, stuffing, bread and butter and dessert, and it was really good. You could taste the love in it, as they say.

Santa Claus was there, and the special needs people got a bag full of presents that have been donated by a long list of people.

Every year, it seems like more people show up. I usually help serve, but this time I was under the influence of a cold and didn’t want to handle other people’s food, so I just watched.

Turns out they didn’t need me because so many other people turned out to serve that there almost wasn’t room in the kitchen for them to line up for plates.

They must have figured out the same thing I once did: The gifts you give are far precious than the ones you get.