Day 697: The Christmas Jar

9706af1af81262b359949667862e6e04I know it’s almost Easter, not Christmas, but hey, better late than never.

Even though this idea has apparently been around for years, it’s the first time I’ve seen it. And of course now I want to do it!

And there are still eight months left before Christmas! :)

Check it out:

A Christmas Jar or Holiday Money Jar is a wonderful tradition to help spread the holiday spirit and encourage random acts of kindness. Consider starting a new family tradition this year, pass on the spirit of the holiday and give a money jar anonymously to someone who could really use one.

If you are looking for ways to create holiday memories with your children and a tradition that can be carry on for many years, read more about the Christmas Jar, Anonymous Holiday Money Jar or if you want to be politically correct, the Ramahanukwanzmas Jar.

The Christmas Jar tradition started in 2005 by author Jason F. Wright with his family. He went on to publish his family’s idea in the book Christmas Jars which became a New York Times Best Selling Book.

Source.

P.S. I know everyone and their third cousin is making “Happy” videos these days, but this one’s my favourite so far. Enjoy!

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Day 696: Hunger pains

FoodBankSorry guys, don’t know where March went… I was frozen like a popsicle the whole month, I do know that.

When my office had a volunteer day at the Daily Bread Food Bank recently, I was struck by something one of the organizers there told us. After our group had finished sorting donated food, stacking boxes and labelling them, he showed us where the boxes would go next — into a giant warehouse, stocked to the roof with food donations.

The shocking part was when he told us that certain times of the year, the entire warehouse is empty. That’s when they have to launch a new food drive and get the word out that donations are desperately needed. It really brought home the great need out there.

I also wanted to share this lovely thank you letter from a mom who not only benefited from a random act of kindness, but also shares what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a food program. There but for the grace of God….

*******

grocerybillDear woman behind me in line at the grocery store,

You don’t know me. You have no clue what my life has been like since October 1, 2013. You have no clue that my family has gone through the wringer. You have no clue that we have faced unbelievable hardship. You have no clue we have been humiliated, humbled, destitute.

You have no clue I have cried more days than not; that I fight against bitterness taking control of my heart. You have no clue that my husband’s pride was shattered. You have no clue my kids have had the worries of an adult on their shoulders. You have no clue their innocence was snatched from them for no good reason. You know none of this.

What you do know is I tried to buy my kids some food and that the EBT machine was down so I couldn’t buy that food. I didn’t have any cash or my debit card with me. I only had my SNAP card. All you heard was me saying “No, don’t hold it for me. My kids are hungry now and I have no other way of paying for this.” You didn’t judge me. You didn’t snarl “Maybe you should have less kids.” You didn’t say “Well, get a job and learn to support yourself.” You didn’t look away in embarrassment or shame for me. You didn’t make any assumptions at all.

What you did was you paid that $17.38 grocery bill for us. You gave my kids bananas, yogurt, apple juice, cheese sticks, and a peach ice tea for me; a rare treat and splurge. You let me hug you and promise through my tears that I WILL pay this forward. I WILL pay someone’s grocery bill for them. That $17.38 may not have been a lot for you, but it was priceless to us. In the car my kids couldn’t stop gushing about you; our “angel in disguise.” They prayed for you. They prayed you would be blessed. You restored some of our lost faith. One simple and small action changed our lives. You probably have forgotten about us by now, but we haven’t forgotten about you. You will forever be a part of us even though we don’t even know your name.

You have no clue how grateful and embarrassed I am that we pay for all our food with SNAP. We eat well thanks to the government. I love that. I love that the government makes sure my kids are cared for. It is one less worry for us. I also struggle with pride and embarrassment. I defiantly tell people we are on SNAP. Daring them to judge us.

Only those closest to us know why we are on SNAP. They know my husband is a hard worker who was laid off after 17 years in a management position with his former company. They know we were moved from our home to a new state only to be left homeless since the house we had came with the job he lost. Only those closest to us know my husband works part time while looking tirelessly for more; that he has submitted more applications than he has received interviews for. Too many jobs are only offering part time work anymore. It is not easy for a 40-something year old to find a job that will support his family of five kids.

You know none of this but you didn’t let that stop you from being compassionate and generous to someone you have never met.

To the woman behind me at the grocery store, you have no idea how much we appreciate you. You have no idea the impact you had on my kids. You have no idea how incredibly thankful I am for you. Your action may have been small, but to us it was monumental. Thank you.

Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for giving my kids a snack when they were quite hungry. Thank you. Just thank you.

Forever,

Andrea, the woman in front of you at the grocery store with the cart full of kids who are no longer hungry.

This post first appeared on Andrea’s blog truestoriesofamidwestyankee.wordpress.com

P.S. Song for the day, enjoy!

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Day 695: Sonnets by Kids for Valentine’s Day

11863201-valentine-tree-with-hearts-leaves-and-birds

Click 4 source.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

To me, this day isn’t just about romantic love for your sweetheart (although that’s important too)… it’s also about letting your nearest and dearest know how much you care about them. Especially those who are on their own.

So when I heard about this great program on CBC radio this morning called “Sonnets by Kids for Valentine’s Day,” I knew I had to send one to my brother, because (a) it would confuse the heck out of him; (b) I love Shakespeare and I hope he does too; and (c) I do want to let him know I’m thinking about him.

On Valentine’s Day, for just $25 (which supports Shakespeare in Action’s educational programs), a lovely Shakespeare Kid volunteer (age 7 to 12) will call your Valentine person and recite the sonnet of your choice (either 18, 24, 29 or 116). They’ll also mail a copy of the sonnet to them.

Awesome idea, right?!

Here’s a video of the Shakespeare Kids in Action:

Here’s the sonnet I sent, more here:

sonnet29

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Day 694: Coats for Syria

My bundle of winter wear.

My bundle of winter wear.

We have some lovely peeps in our office. Two so far have grown their hair then cut it to donate to cancer patients. And now, another coworker has volunteered to collect coats, scarves, boots, and other winter wear and bring it to the drop off at Sunnybrook Hospital for the Coats From Canada drive.

Dr. Jay Dahman and paramedic Mark Cameron at Sunnybrook — both members of the Canadian International Medical Relief Organization (CIMRO)  –  initiated the clothing drive to get winter clothing to those in need in  war-torn Syria.

Cameron told CBC News: “We’ve seen kids without shoes walking barefoot in the snow without winter coats, without hats, without toques, mitts and so forth and frankly many of them are dying every night there as we speak.” And on the CIMRO Facebook page: “Syrian kids are dying of hypothermia on a daily basis.” They’ve both been to Syria several times, to care for the wounded.

We’ve all been complaining about the “polar vortex” and what a brutal winter this has been, but we have the advantage of living in a peaceful country and, for most of us, having at least a coat and shoes, if not snow boots.

So I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the Syrians right now.

10dollarbillI bundled up what I could from my closet and got myself a bonus in the process. In one of the coats I was donating, I found an old $10 bill … guess I should donate that as well.

Learn more (or find out how to make a donation) here.

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Day 693: British man reunites with “Mike” — the good samaritan who talked him out of suicide in 2008

I’ve been following this story ever since I watch this initial video:

And like so many others who saw it, I shared the story with my friends in the U.K.

Well, so many people did share that “Mike” was finally found. Yay!!! Here’s the video!

Here’s a recap of the whole story:

Earlier this month, a man from the U.K. named Jonny Benjamin started a social media campaign called #FindMike to track down the stranger who convinced him not to end his life in 2008.

This week, Benjamin found “Mike,” whose real name is Neil Laybourn, according to Rethink Mental Illness, the organization that helped launch Benjamin’s search. In the video above, you can watch the men’s heartwarming reunion.

It was Laybourn’s fiancee who saw Benjamin’s story and made the connection, BBC News reported. Laybourn quickly reached out.

Benjamin also filmed a YouTube video about his search and wrote a blog post for The Huffington Post UK — all so he could thank the good Samaritan who stopped him from jumping off the Waterloo Bridge in London six years ago.

“You can tell he just understands and he doesn’t judge,” Benjamin says in the video above. “He just sits there with this kind of big smile, I think everyone could do with a friend like Neil.”

I only hope I’d be as brave and compassionate as Mike if I saw someone in need.

Need help? In Canada, call 911 or find a crisis line in your area, here. In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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Day 692: Surrey boy delivers 3,500 Christmas pyjamas to needy kids

Heard this story on CBC radio and it blew me away.

Christmas Pyjamas for kids

Click pic to watch video.

Screen shot 2013-12-21 at 1.20.07 PM

Three years ago, nine-year-old Reese Shelley’s life changed because of a pair of Christmas pyjamas.

He received a pair for the holidays, as he does every year, but was inspired to begin collecting nightclothes for other children when he realized how lucky he was. Shelley was shocked to learn other children didn’t receive the kind of gifts he did at Christmas.

His mother, Erin Shelley said he asked: “they don’t even get pyjamas, mum?”

The first year, Shelley’s goal was to collect 50 pairs of pyjamas — the family collected 300.

So, Reese set a new goal for the following Christmas.

“One time he says, ‘yeah, I want there to be 1000 pairs of pyjamas’ and that’s what he told us. And  then all of a sudden he started talking to someone else, ‘no I want 1500.’ OK, that’s our new goal I guess, and we run with that,” said his father Todd Shelley.

As news of the seasonal assembly line spread, pyjama drives sprang up throughout B.C. They spread to  Alberta, Saskatchewan and across the border into Washington state.

Shelley promotes the cause at schools and community groups. He’s inspired a growing network of child “pyjama ambassadors.”

This year, he led a legion of Santa’s helpers to his local Christmas charity, bearing more than 3,500 flannel presents for other kids.

“I feel like I’ve done something, that I’ve tucked someone in for Christmas Eve,” he said.

Source.

And I love this comment on the cbc site:
“Reese you are an amazing young man, I hope you grow up to be the Prime Minister of our country, we need someone in the job that cares as much as you do <3″

Agreed.

p.s. I didn’t even think of pyjamas when our office had its Christmas drive… instead, I put a game of Snakes & Ladders under the tree, lol. Next year! :)

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Day 691: Knitting us together


I posted earlier this week about how relaxing knitting can be. Then today at cbc.ca, I read this amazing story by Emily Fitzpatrick about an Edmonton grandmother who knitted 1,000 hats for the homeless this year. Aaaaand, today’s Google doodle is a cool knitting gif to celebrate the winter solstice (not sure how that relates, but whatevs).

Here’s the story about the Edmonton grandma… she’s inspired me to take some of the leftover wool I have and make something helpful with it (a toque seems beyond my skills at the moment but it’s worth a try, right?)

Screen shot 2013-12-21 at 12.14.48 PM
Jane Van Zyll Langhout, an 85-year-old grandmother, first learned to knit as a young girl in Holland, but when her husband passed away 25 years ago, she committed herself to her craft full time.

“It [got] really lonely, and then I started knitting. I did it for the neighbourhood mostly,” she said.

Now, she knits every day.

“I could almost do it with my eyes closed” she said. “Touques are easy to make … and the older I get the more I like to sit down.”

For the second year in a row, she is using her talent and passion to give back, donating 1,000 hand-knit touques to the Share the Warmth Campaign.

To prepare for this year’s donation, Van Zyll Langhout spent about eight hours every day knitting, usually completing three hats a day.

The campaign was first started by retired NAIT teacher Gordon Smith 10 years ago when he heard there was a need for socks in the homeless community.

Wanting to help, Smith asked around for donations.

“All of a sudden I got two or three pairs of socks. Then 50 pairs, then 500 pairs – and then all of a sudden I’m in the sock business,” he said.

Read rest HERE.

p.s. And me? Today I haven’t left the house because of the ice out there but yesterday I dropped off some soups and stews for the food bank drive in our office building and washed up other people’s dishes in our staff kitchen when no one was looking. Later, I snapped out of my iPod trance long enough to notice that a lady with a cane was slowly making her way towards the door of our building, and I was able to open it for her in time, which often only occurs to me after the fact, I’m afraid.

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