A Season of Everyday Blessings

Iron Lung

This is dedicated to my friend and stepfather, Richard.

It was 1942, and families all over the world were dealing with hardship and devastation due to war. In August of that year, the Chinnery family was hit by tragedy of another kind.

Seven-year-old Bill was the first to be diagnosed with polio and within days, his older brother George became ill. At first it looked like tonsillitis, but it soon became obvious that he also had polio. Parents George and Ardice were told that he was dying and when they arrived at the hospital, George was already gone.

The devastated parents returned home to find that their three other sons were also ill. When five-year-old Richard’s condition quickly deteriorated, he was rushed to the hospital and put in an iron lung – a blessing because there were only a few in the entire city. Richard spent several months in the iron lung, paralyzed on one side and unable to move.   But at least his chance of survival was improved.

When Richard needed a transfusion, radio stations across the city put out an urgent call for blood donations. A young man volunteered, and the family never knew the name of the donor.

As Richard and his brothers recovered and were no longer contagious, family members, friends and neighbors helped with physical therapy treatments, taking turns moving his arms and legs. Both friends and strangers donated ration cards for food and gas so that nurses could visit the Chinnery home.

A friend of the family and his wife had a unique idea. Every week they delivered a bag of seven individually wrapped gifts – one for each day. They were small packages and Richard couldn’t even open them himself because he was unable to move his fingers. But he knew that each day he had something to look forward to.

More than 72 years later, Richard remembers the brown paper bag delivered faithfully each week. “They were little things, but they meant so much.”  Richard credits his survival and remarkable recovery to caring friends, family and community and he will never forget all of the people that gave so much.  He gets emotional when he talks about his parents and his older brother, George.  “I only lived because my brother died.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have given me an iron lung – there weren’t enough.”  It’s hard to imagine what his parents went through and even with all of the difficulty that he and his family faced, he says, “We were lucky. We were very lucky.”

In this season of giving, joy and gratitude, remember that love, caring and creativity are precious. And sometimes your time and your presence are the best gifts of all.

Find ways to be a blessing.

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Gifts from the Heart

giving hands

Are these hands giving, or are they receiving?

This holiday season, and every day for any reason, share these gifts and enjoy many happy returns.

  • Attention – take the time to put other things aside and to truly focus and listen.
  • Laughter – appreciate humor and laugh until you’re in tears (I do it regularly).
  • Sharing – most of us have more than we need – keep resources of all kinds in circulation and share your time if you have nothing else.
  • Growth – keep learning, exchange knowledge and invest in yourself and others.  Recognize and nurture potential, mentor and encourage others.
  • Warmth – Stop for a moment to see those around you and share a smile, a kind greeting or a hug.  Become a bright spot in someone’s day  or a radiant beacon.
  • Patience – Take a deep breath.  Instead of impatience and anger, offer assistance.
  • Forgiveness – This is the most difficult, but the best gift to yourself.  Let the anger go, or use the energy to help others through your experiences, wisdom and understanding.

These gifts cost nothing but time and intention, are easily shared and make a lasting impression.  Share freely and watch the results!

Everyday Gifts: 10 No-Cost or Low-Cost Ideas for the Holiday Season

Ornaments

It’s the holiday season, and the pressure builds to buy.  So that we may give.  But giving does not always require a purchase.  In fact, when I look back over a lifetime of friendships and family and giving, the most memorable gifts have been from the heart – not from a store.

Here are some ideas for low-cost or no-cost gifts that make a true impression.

  • Original Art.  Frame a drawing, painting or simple sketch or scan, print on high quality paper and make holiday cards.  An abstract painting on thick paper can be cut into bookmarks (with an inspirational quote).
  • Children’s artwork.  See above!  Kids’ artwork and photos can also be incorporated into simple and memorable ornaments.
  • Love of reading.  Read a good book lately?  Share with a friend that has similar tastes and have a book club for two over a cup of tea.
  • Instant garden.  Pot a few plants from your garden that can be taken inside for the winter.  An arrangement of a few small succulents potted in sandy soil becomes an instant garden.
  • Seeds for the future.  Save seeds from your butterfly plants or vegetable garden, dry and package in ziplock snack bags.  Wrap in a square of decorative cloth and tie with a ribbon or tuck into an inexpensive cloth bag (you can find mini tote bags or gift/favor bags  at the dollar store).  Gift tags can include a drawing or printed picture of the future plant, fruit or flower.
  • Cooking inspiration.  Share a few of your favorite recipes and include the finished product or a few hard-to-find or exotic ingredients.
  • Make mine a double.  The next time you bake, make a double batch and share with a friend or neighbor.
  • Home sweet home.  Furniture, kitchenware or other items not in use are a welcome gift for someone just starting out, a student or friend in need.
  • Mr. (or Ms.) Fixit.  Offer to share your skills and talents with someone that needs assistance.  Rake, shovel, repair, or do some computer maintenance – your time will be well spent and much appreciated.
  • Songs and laughter.  Organize a house concert or talent show and share the gift of music and companionship.  The price of admission can be a drink or snack, a willing voice and plenty of applause.