You are probably reading this during the Christmas season, which is considered a special time, at least for many people around the world. It is a time when people can stop and reflect, something that I need to do more frequently; especially the stopping part. I tend to be on the move almost every waking hour.
In my growing-up years (just after the dinosaurs disappeared), my family celebrated Christmas in the usual traditional ways: trees, decorations, presents and families getting together. I remember it as a mostly fun time, although the time one of my relatives imbibed a little too much Christmas cheer and knocked my little 6-year-old self and the Christmas tree into a heap didn’t seem all that much fun. I think it was the elbow to the nose that iced that particular cake.
Once I had children of my own with whom I could share the holiday, it took on new excitement and meaning. My wife and I would go to elaborate lengths to create special memories for our children, especially the youngest.
For a while, our daughter was into tea parties. I remember one Christmas when she was about 6 or 7, we got a doll and a Paddington bear and set them under the tree at a small table. We created a tea party, which, as a Christmas morning surprise, was quite a success. Two years later, we took Paddington to London and got his tag stamped at Paddington Station.
This holiday season seems to bring out the more generous aspects of humankind. In 2009, I watched an episode of “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition” (which left the airways in 2012, but is coming back in 2020), where about 1,000 citizens of Erie, Penn., got together to build a house for then-70-year-old disabled Clara Ward and her family. Clara is a person who gave all that she could to make the lives of the children in her day care positive and more comfortable.
Clara organized a toy drive to provide hundreds of children presents for the holiday. She and her daughter Cynthia also ran the Youth Development Center that provided services for neglected and abused children.
Her community recognized her dedication and spirit and gave something back to her. Due to a degenerative muscular disease, Clara was confined to a wheelchair, so the producers of the show and community members designed her new home to be completely wheelchair accessible, with counters built at the perfect height. Numerous other modifications created a place for Clara to continue her work with more ease and efficiency. Clara passed away at age 80 in August of 2019.
We have many examples of this same community spirit right here in the Mother Lode. There are so many groups that devote themselves to making our lives better in small, but important ways. The service clubs such as Rotary, Lions, Soroptimist and Optimists all work to provide opportunities to improve their communities.
There are also many religious organizations that provide a huge variety of programs to support the citizens of the Mother Lode. Many of them offer regular free meals, youth social activities and a multiplicity of other ways to create more satisfying lives for everyone.
The list of organizations that help create the great communities that we live in would literally fill up this entire column. Habitat for Humanity Calaveras, the Calaveras Humane Society, Friends of the Calaveras County Library, Hospice, the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program and so many others all provide community support.
As I take a moment to reflect on the many blessings that have been given to my family and me, I realize how fortunate I am to live when and where I do. It is to everyone’s advantage to stop and consider just how much we have to appreciate.
So I recommend that everyone take a moment to consider the joys of the holiday season and ways to continue the Christmas spirit throughout the year.
Kevin Wychopen is a semiretired school counselor and columnist for the Enterprise. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.