Well, I had a blog written and ready to go when a newsletter from the To’Do Institute popped up in my in box. I took a minute to peruse it. There was an account written by Gregg Krech about how, for many years, his family have decorated their Christmas tree with gratitude. It was such an out of the ordinary, thoughtful, inspiring concept that I decided to chuck my blog (or maybe save it for next year) and post Gregg’s writing instead. A practice such as this can surely remind us of our blessings and how often we are the beneficiaries of good will and kindness.
“Decorating the holiday Christmas tree can be a great family activity. When our daughters were young, we designed an approach to decorating the tree which became one of the most mindful and enjoyable activities of the season. Both our daughters are in college now, but this tradition has served us well for fifteen years.
We first displayed our growing and eclectic collection of ornaments on the table, ranging from simple pre-school treasures to ornaments fit for the tree of a Russian Czar, and then took turns selecting and hanging one ornament at a time.
But before we would hang each ornament, we’d dedicate the ornament to a specific person. We’d announce who it was dedicated to, why we chose them and what we wanted to thank them for. A friend might get a snowman ornament in honor of the snowy creatures they made in our yard. An aunt might get an angel, in honor of her thoughtfulness and care. The piano teacher might get a miniature piano.
The ornaments would go up, one by one, and the tree would become a canvas of love and support. Each ornament represented the kindness and generosity of someone we know or have known.
In some cases, we dedicated an ornament to someone who was no longer alive and, in doing so, honored that person’s life and our memory of them.
We might spend 30-40 minutes each evening for 3-4 nights before completing this process. The decorating itself becomes a practice of reflection on our good fortune.”
Comments are welcomed.
Okay. I mentioned I might consider writing an elf story for you. I wasn’t sure I would actually do it. Well, here it is. This is a tale about a little known, in truth a totally unknown elf named Eddie. Eddie was born and raised at the North pole llike all of Santa’s elves. Eddie was a fine, yet nondescript, fellow. He minded his parents and teachers growing up. When he came of age, he went to work in one of Santa’s workshops. He always did his very best with whatever was asked of him. Eddie kept his elf nose in his own business, never complained, never participated in the elf gossip. Consequently, Eddie went unnoticed by the other elves. This did not seem to bother him. He was exceptionally observant which led to his grand idea. He became so consumed by his idea that he worked up the courage to make an appointment with Santa.
Santa could see Eddie was nervous, so he provided extra marshmallows with the customary hot chocolate. Eddie told Santa that he noticed that the elves were generally a happy lot, especially when the baker elves treated them with fresh cookies. He said that he also noticed that at times there was grumbling and criticizing of each other. Then Eddie said to Santa. I’ve thought of something that might make a difference when there is nattering and complaining.” Santa seemed most interested and urged him to continue.
Eddie explained that he had learned through his observations that elves were happier and worked harder when they were acknowledged for doing their jobs well. Eddie continued to say that he also noticed that each of the workshops had a big , empty white board. Eddie said he didn’t know what these white boards were for because no one ever used them. Then Eddie launched into his big idea. “Santa, what if we turn those white boards into like a happiness board? If the manager elves and the elf workers noticed an elf kindness or an especially beautiful toy was made and wrote a note and posted it on the white board for all to see, it would make us very happy. You know, like a note posted saying elf Clem shared his best paint brush with elf Sammy.”
Santa was intrigued. He thanked Eddie and said he and Mrs. Santa would discuss it further.
To make a long story a little bit longer, Santa and Mrs. Santa had a meeting with the entire elf population. It was decreed that all of the white boards in all of the workshops would become Joy Boards. The elves shared their ideas for what to post. The elves were very enthusiastic about developing the Joy Boards. As time went by, Eddie’s grand idea led to greater cheerfulness and verve throughout the North Pole. There were very few incidents of squabbling or discontent. Due to the great success of the Joy Boards, Santa honored Eddie with a new position. Eddie became the North Pole’s Mirth and Merriment Maven. In fact, over the eons, Eddie’s offspring took up the mantle of Mirth and Merriment in perpetuity, so that the North Pole would always be a place of flourishing and well-being for all it’s residents.
There are two morals to this story.
One: A little thoughtfulness, a little consideration can make all the difference.
Two: When you seek to find the best in others, you discover the best in yourself.
Comments are welcome.
Advent began yesterday, December 1. Whether Advent is part of your heritage or not, and it was not always part of mine, some of you, like myself, may be a little curious about the history of the Advent calendar. Of course, I consulted Prof. Google for a medium dive into its origin. Here are a few facts I learned at mentalfloss.com that might also be of interest to you.
ADVENT CALENDAR ORIGINS
“Advent calendars typically don’t follow the actual period of Advent. Instead, they begin on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. Today, most Advent calendars include paper doors that open to reveal an image, Bible verse, or piece of chocolate. The tradition dates to the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas.
THE FIRST PRINTED ADVENT CALENDARS
Gerhard Lang is widely considered the producer of the first printed Advent calendar in the early 1900s.
Around the same time, a German newspaper included an Advent calendar insert as a gift to its readers. Lang’s calendar was inspired by one that his mother had made for him and featured 24 colored pictures that attached to a piece of cardboard. Lang modified his calendars to include the little doors that are a staple of most Advent calendars today and they became a commercial success in Germany. Production stopped due to a cardboard shortage during World War II, but resumed soon after, with Richard Sellmer emerging as the leading producer of commercial Advent calendars.
I LIKE IKE AND IKE LIKES ADVENT CALENDARS
Dwight D. Eisenhower is often credited for the proliferation of the Advent calendar tradition in the United States. During his presidency, Eisenhower was photographed opening an Advent calendar with his grandchildren and the photo ran in several national newspapers.
THE $50,000 ADVENT CALENDAR
One of the most expensive Advent calendars to ever hit the shelves was a 4-foot, Christmas-tree shaped structure carved from burr elm and walnut wood available through Harrods in 2007. Each of the $50,000 calendar’s 24 compartments housed a piece of organic chocolate from Green & Black, with proceeds going to support cocoa farmers in Belize.
THE WORLD'S LARGEST ADVENT CALENDAR
According to Guinness World Records, the world's largest advent calendar was built in 2007 at the St. Pancras train station in London. The massive calendar, which measured 232 feet and 11 inches tall, and 75 feet and 5 inches wide, celebrated the reopening of the station following a renovation.
THE LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR
For several years, LEGO has produced an Advent calendar set, featuring figures or constructible accessories behind every numbered door. This year, the company is offering a City version and a Star Wars Advent calendar.
HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE
Since 2008, the Big Picture photo blog has featured an Advent calendar of daily images from the Hubble Space Telescope.”
Over the past 4 years I have subscribed to the on line Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. Each day from Dec. 1 through Dec.24 I receive a suggestion for an act of kindness to carry out. It is inspiring and sparks creativity for finding new ways to spread kindness, gratitude and good will. What could be better?
Comments are most welcome.
We begin the final week of November 2019. This week will be highlighted by American Thanksgiving on Thursday. Love and blessings to all who celebrate it and to everyone else as well. As we mosey on into December, a potpourri of thoughts flood my mind. There are the more serious, reflective thoughts as the year comes to a close. Then there are the playful, whimsical thoughts that are elicited by upcoming holidays.
Where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular. I’m just inviting you to come along with me on a little stream of consciousness journey. I’ll start with November. Have you noticed what a drab, dreary month November can be? There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of sun. The weather can be dank, chilly and maybe that ‘S’ word making an appearance. On the upside are the wonderful aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice coming from baked goods and mulled drinks; hot roasted chestnuts, wood fires. Cornucopias of freshly harvested fruits, nuts, vegetables along with family gatherings.
Between the Thanksgiving celebrations in North America and upcoming December holidays, gratitude is the underlying theme. As we begin to put that bow on 2019, we might begin to reflect back on the year that has been. Sure it is good to acknowledge things that we could have done better or differently, but it is also of great value to acknowledge that which went well. What are those positives that we can carry forward into the new year? How can we build on those things and have more of them? To me, those are the big questions to focus on.
December is a melange of mirth, merriment, kindness, benevolence, good will, reaching out to those in need, for example. They are qualities that are really meant for the entire year, not to be saved up and let out only in one month.
Something that comes to the forefront for me is based on story telling. In the recent past I’ve written several short stories about the adventures and shenanigans of Santa’s elves for my grandkids. They have grown a little beyond those Tales From The North Pole, but I am inclined to create another story or two just for the fun of it. While the stories were primarily about elf high jinks, there was always a lesson or moral embedded in each one. Hmmmm. Maybe I’ll write one for you. We’ll see.
Speaking of morals. There are two morals to this weeks ramblings.
One: Wait not for one special day to celebrate when every day can be celebrated as special.
Two: There are 3 amigos we might like to invite as permanent dinner guests - goodness, generosity of spirit and lightness of heart.
Comments are welcomed.