HOMELESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS


Christmas carols waft through the crisp Manhattan air as the steady ringing of the bells of Salvation Army Santa sets the pace for shoppers hustling from store to store. The magnificent Rockefeller Center Christmas tree heralds the promise of Yuletide celebrations ushering in the season of love and joy.

But for thousands of homeless people in New York city, the season is a harbinger of struggle. Huddled in alleyways, bus terminals, doorways and other temporary hovels, attempting to ease the chill of winter, they find no joy.

Some keep their faces to the ground, too hungry and lethargic to honor the Christ child’s birth. Others glance upward, perhaps searching for a special star to offer solace to a life of misery, but more likely hoping for handouts–a dollar or two to stem the ever-present gnawing of a tortured empty stomach. Years ago, it was a nickel, but inflation has reached the street people as well. New York City with the highest population in the country, also has one of the largest number of people for whom Christmas is just another exercise in survival.

Perhaps it is the fear of ‘Except for the grace of God go I’, mentality that keeps us from recognizing them or addressing the biblical question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Now that the holidays are upon us it’s a good time to reconsider our priorities. We live in a country of great contrasts; from the extremely wealthy through the strong middle class to the struggling lower class. Not enough of us consider the ‘no’ class, the people who have nothing; because acknowledging the problem necessitates a resolution.

Still, the day after Christmas there will be those who will ponder, like in the old Peggy Lee song, ‘Is that all there is?’ Too often Christ is removed from Christmas and we sense, but cannot name, the hollow feeling left after the frantic rush to make one day memorable. The homeless, hunched around garbage can fires, or sleeping over subway grates to catch the warmth of a passing train, do not have the luxury of such contemplation.

As our world grows smaller, the plight of the homeless becomes a global concern, bringing crime, disease and poverty to our doors. No one appreciates a guilt trip during the Christmas season, and no one wants visions of starving people interrupting the Holiday feast, overflowing with homemade delicacies, cookies and candy canes hanging from decorated trees. We work for what we have, ever harder in this sluggish economy and we deserve the rewards of our labors. True. But in the spirit of Christmas it is important to remember that over 2000 years ago, the Christ child lay in a manure-filled stable in Bethlehem, on a straw mattress of questionable cleanliness, wrapped in swaddling clothes that did not come from Macy’s.

Emphasis today weighs heavily upon material gifts. Charge cards promote a gluttony of expenditure that has little to do with the meaning of Christmas. The legendary Little Drummer Boy had nothing but a song to offer the new-born babe. That gift was cherished more then the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought by the wise men from the East, because it was a gift of pure love.

This season let us all think about how much we have, and how fortunate we are to be spending the holidays with loved ones instead of a damp, freezing floor in Grand Central Station. Above all, let us love one another. And if we can extend that love to the homeless street people, the next holiday season may witness a practical solution to our mutual shame. Love is a self-perpetuating emotion; and all it takes to activate it is to exchange it among ourselves. Merry Christmas!

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CHRISTMAS: PAST AND PRESENT

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Mall, last minute shoppers scurried from store to store; short on patience and with little evidence of the holiday spirit of love. The only ones smiling were the store owners and the costumed Santa, who gets paid to be jolly.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of talking dolls, video games, bicycles and other expensive toys, danced in their heads. Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down to tackle the mountain of Christmas bills, which was larger than the national debt.

The moon on the crest of the new fallen snow, reflected the concern of families awaiting the arrival of loved ones traveling on icy roads .Years ago, Christmas seemed easier, less commercial and more enjoyable. Many families lived near each other, and most of the decorations, foodstuffs and presents were homemade. While there was stress and haste to accomplish the needed tasks by Christmas Eve, the stress was different than what is experienced today.

Generations past did not seem to lose sight of the reason for Christmas; a birthday celebration of sharing and love.

The nostalgia of horse-drawn sleigh rides through wooded country roads is sorely missed. Bells jingling accompaniment to carols sung off key by bundled-up children in the back of the sleigh, is a thing of the past. Yet Christmas retains an aura of magic, nonetheless.

Originally, the Christian church did not acknowledge Christmas at all, as such observance was considered a heathen rite. The earliest records of any Christmas celebration dates back to the early part of the third century.Gift giving, as a custom, may have originated with the Romans, relating to their worship of Dionysus at Delphi.

The Christmas tree comes from the Germans, although its origin has been traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The tree replaces a former customary pyramid of candles, part of the pagan festivals. There is a legend that Martin Luther brought an evergreen home to his children and decorated it for Christmas. German immigrants carried this custom with them to the New World, but it did not gain popularity until 1860, when John C. Bushmann, a German, decorated a tree in Massachusetts and invited people to see it.

Evergreens, a symbol of survival, date to the 18th century when St. Boniface, honoring the Christianization of Germany, dedicated a fir tree to the Holy Child to replace the sacred oak of Odin.

The “Nation’s Christmas Tree,” was the General Grant tree in General Grant National Park in California, dedicated May 1, 1926,by the town mayor. The tree was 267 feet high and 3500-4000 years old.

Mistletoe, burned on the alter of the Druid gods, was regarded as a symbol of love and peace. The Celtic custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from the practice of enemies meeting under the plant, dropping their weapons and embracing in peace. Some parts of England decorated with mistletoe and holly, but other parts banned its use due to association with Druid rites. Mistletoe was considered a cure for sterility, a remedy for poisons, and kissing under it would surely lead to marriage.

The 4th century German St. Nicholas, shortened through the years to Santa Claus, has become the epitome of today’s Christmas spirit. St. Nicholas, taking pity upon three young maidens with no dowry and no hope, tossed a bag of gold through each of their windows, and granted them a future. Other anonymous gifts being credited to him were emulated and the tradition grew. The Norsemen enhanced the legend of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with their goddess, Hertha, known to appear in fireplaces, bringing happiness and good luck.

Sir Henry Cole, impressed by a lithograph drawing, made by J.C. Horsley, instigated the idea of Christmas cards. It took eighteen years for the custom to gain popularity, and then it was adopted mainly by gentry. Christmas was banned in England in 1644, during the Puritan ascendancy. A law was passed ordering December 25th a market day and shops were forced to open. Even the making of plum pudding and mincemeat pies was forbidden. This law was repealed after the Restoration, but the Dissenters still referred to Yuletide as “Fooltide.”

The General Court of Massachusetts passed a law in 1657 making the celebration of Christmas a penal offense. This law, too, was repealed, but many years would pass before New England celebrated Christmas.

When Washington crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War, it was the observance of Christmas that made his conquest of the British a success. The enemy was sleeping off the affects of the celebration.

Befana, or Epiphany, is the Italian female counterpart of Santa Claus. On Epiphany, or Twelth Night, she is said to fill children’s stockings with presents. According to legend, Befana was too busy to see the Wise Men during their visit to the Christ Child, saying that she would see them on their way back to the East. The Magi, however, chose a different route home, and now Befana must search for them throughout eternity. The sacred song traditionally sung on her yearly visit is the Befanata.

The number of Magi visiting the stable on that first Christmas Eve could be anywhere from two to twenty. The number three was chosen because of the three gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Western tradition calls the Magi, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, but they have different names and numbers in different parts of the world.

Though distinctly Christian, the social aspect of Christmas is observed and enjoyed by many religious and ethnic groups. Rabbi Eichler, during a sermon in Boston in 1910 explains why: “…Christmas has a double aspect, a social and theological side. The Jew can and does heartily join in the social Christmas. Gladly, does he contribute to the spirit of good will and peace, characteristic of the season. It was from the light of Israel’s sanctuary that Christianity lit its torch. The Hanukkah lights, therefore, justly typify civilization and universal religion.”

Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, penned the famous poem, “Twas the Night before Christmas.” Dr.Moore never intended for the poem to be published. Miss Harriet Butler, daughter of the rector of St. Paul’s Church in Troy, New York, accompanied her father on a visit to Dr. Moore. She asked for a copy of the poem and sent it anonymously to the editor of The Troy Sentinel. A copy of the newspaper carrying his poem was sent to Dr. Moore, who was greatly annoyed that something he composed for the amusement of his children should be printed. It was not until eight years later, that Dr. Moore publicly admitted that he wrote the poem.

Christmas is the favorite Holiday of children, who unquestionably accept the myth of Santa Claus. In 1897, one little girl began to have doubts as to the reality of Santa Claus, and wrote to the New York Sun, asking for confirmation. Her letter read: Dear editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says,”If you see it in The Sun, it’s so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?” Virginia D’Hanlon.

Francis P. Church’s editorial answer to the little girl became almost as famous as Dr. Moore’s poem. In part, this is what he wrote: Virginia, your little friends are so wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe, except they see… Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists….Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as if there were no Virginia’s…No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

It is sentiments like this that warm the heart of child and adult alike, as Christmas nears. It is not the gifts, soon forgotten, that make Christmas a time of wonder and magic. It is the love within all people for God, for children, for each other. During this hectic holiday season, take a moment or two to savor the true meaning of Christmas.

And I heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a Goodnight!”
Dr. Clement Clarke Moore

THE GIRL WHO LOVED CHRISTMAS

I had always wanted a Christmas baby; a special gift at a special time. When my fifth child was due to be born on December 25th, I was ecstatic, but nervous about the likely prospect of spending the holidays in the hospital. I just had to be home for Christmas. Somehow I conveyed that message to my overly ripe body and delivered the baby 10 days before Christmas Eve. Noelle Marie, French for ‘Merry Christmas,’ entered the world with a caul over her face, a white ‘Angel’s veil,’ reputed through legend to be a sign of a lucky or gifted child. I pondered that phenomenon in my heart, briefly, but was more impressed by the fact that the two of us had conspired to be home for Christmas — home with her father and four excited siblings.
I distinctly remember that Christmas Eve. It was snowing, a soft and silent snow that blanketed our tiny home in white velvet. We laid the baby in a cradle in front of the scraggly ‘Charlie Brown’ pine tree, decorated with homemade ornaments and tediously strung popcorn. Next to her sat the wooden manger housing the Holy Family, which her father had made, topped with a beaming ceramic guardian angel, that had fallen off the nail at the top of the pointed roof so many times that her smile was chipped and crooked. Noelle, dressed in a red and white Santa Claus jumpsuit, resembled a tiny elf as she gazed up at the colored lights on the tree with unfocused eyes, wrinkled and funny-faced, unaware of her status.
Today, when remembering Christmases past, that day waxes sharp in my memory, followed by other Christmases, some joyous, some harried with six children throwing up. That year, unbeknownst to her father and me, Noelle and her sisters sampled the eggnog. We found 11-year-old Noelle trying to fly like an airplane around the large dining room table until she collapsed into a fit of giggles. Needless to say, they were all severely reprimanded, putting a slight damper on that Christmas.
Noelle insisted that we watch every Christmas television special as a family, sobbed each year over ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and generally drove us to distraction with her frantic preparations for the holiday. One Christmas we baked flour dough ornaments, and one of Noelle’s gingerbread boys looked exactly like ‘Mr. Bill,’ on Saturday Night Live, which forever gave him a special place on the tree; second in importance only to the bedraggled Angel that dangled off the treetop. Noelle refused to part with or replace any of our original decorations, which were all beginning to show their age. She was contagious with her love for Christmas, and bonded with the holiday almost as if her name gave her an aura or presence that ordinary-named portals could not grasp.
She loved baking the cookies, decorating the tree, attending midnight Mass, and sharing in the giving of gifts, no matter how great or small. The season was hers. She reveled in it. Her zest for the holidays, however, did not extend to cleaning the house or washing the mountains of dishes following sumptuous holiday feasts. She talked about helping, and insisted she did more than her share, but somehow had a unique ability to disappear from the face of the earth whenever chores needed to be done. And even in a household of five outraged siblings, she usually got away with it.
This Christmas, 23 years after her birth, I still marvel at the magic of the season, coveting the memories of a newborn babe lying beneath the Christmas tree, personifying the birth of Christ; and the magic of a young girl who cherished the celebration of the birth of the King, and knew how to give homage. That magic will never die.
Noelle’s last Christmas fell right after her 13th birthday. She was nearly a young woman then, with the gangliness of puberty rushing headlong into the promise of beautiful womanhood. But on ‘her holiday’ she retained the naivety of a child, bursting with love and eagerness. The pond behind our house froze solid that year, and the logs in the old Ben Franklin stove blazed warmth and comfort to six nearly frozen ice skaters. Noelle, as on every year, caught us all up in her joy and excitement. She could barely contain herself.
The Christmas which shortly followed her death, caused by a drunk driver, was not somber. We were obligated by unknown forces to celebrate Christmas in her honor as she would have; and in doing so eased our grief.
Other subsequent Christmases, not shielded by shock, were not so easy, and for several years Christmas without Noelle seemed a contradiction in terms. As passing years made our sorrow bearable the ambience Noelle evoked at Christmas slowly drifted back into our lives. Maybe it was the birth of her first nephew, born two years later on the day of Noelle’s death; her way of not allowing us to mourn that day? Maybe it was just the lapsing of time and life renewing itself. Maybe she taught us, albeit we fought the knowledge, that love lives on though life is fragile. I don’t know. I only know that the true spirit of Christmas was shown to me through the eyes of a lovely young girl named Noelle Marie.

How To: Access the (BETTER) OLD WordPress Admin (and Media)…

Good to refer to on my own wordpress

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Following on from the previous two media storage (and money) saving tips – I forgot to mention that it’s better to use the OLD admin media – NOT the NEW admin media.

Here are the first three steps to get into it:

I’ve given an explanation on top of each image below – hope it helps.

When you see your media, ensure you select the hatch Dixon as marked.

Then select the image you want to resize:

On the right you will see the dimensions and file size (weight)

Press the Edit Image button indicated

Now double click inside either box and type in the new size you want.

Then, either, use the little arrow (top right) to go to the next image, or, click on the x (top right) which will take you back to Step 4.

At any time, you can click the x to finish – the…

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…AND WE THANK THEE

  Spicy, aromatic whiffs of pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and candied sweet potatoes mingle with and enhance the hearty, mouth-watering smell of roasted, stuffed turkeys. Thanksgiving, a harvest festival thanking the Creator for a bountiful year, has remained virtually unchanged since the pilgrims in Massachusetts shared that first feast with Chief Massoit and some of his braves.

On Staten Island, as in homes across the nation, people will gather in love and harmony to give thanks. Holiday fare on the Island will not differ greatly from traditional foods, except for the addition of ethnic dishes, such as home-made ravioli, succulent tomato sauce, crusty loaves of Italian bread, lasagne and delectable pastries indigenous to the NewYork area. In Italian homes, especially, a nine course meal is not unusual.

The turkey will dominate the day, whether served in homes, hospital rooms, soup kitchens for the needy, or meals on wheels for housebound senior citizens. Restaurants across the Island will also defer to the turkey, serving those who wish to celebrate, but hate to cook. Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds people of the past, celebrates the present, and offers hope for the future; a day that gratifies body and soul.

Although Governor William Bradford, of the Plymouth Colony issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1621, the concept of giving thanks is as old as the need for worship, and dates back to the time when humanity realized its dependence upon a Higher Power.The colonists of Plymouth observed three days of feasting,games and contests following their plentiful harvest in the autumn of 1621. The journal of Governor Bradford describes the preparations for that first Thanksgiving: “They began now to gather in the swell harvest they had, and to fit their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty… Besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc… Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned, but true reports.”

Staten Island, at that time, was a beautiful lush wilderness, sparsely inhabited by the Aqehonga Indians, who fished, hunted deer, raccoon, and fowl, and harvested corn, pumpkins, berries and fruit. Settlers arriving from England and Holland in 1630, added sausage, head cheese and pies to the abundant game and vegetation on the Island. Twenty years ago, it was common practice for butchers to hang plucked turkeys in store windows, while grocers displayed fresh produce and jugs of apple cider.

On October 31, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Daniel Roberdau, to draft a resolution “to set aside a day of thanksgiving for the signal success lately obtained over the enemies of the United States.” There solution was accepted on November 1, 1777.

George Washington issued a presidential proclamation appointing November 26, 1789, as a day of general thanksgiving for the adoption of the constitution. The first national Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863, due to the unrelenting efforts of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale. While editor of The Ladies Magazine in Boston, she penned countless editorials urging the uniform observance throughout the United States, of one day dedicated to giving thanks for blessings received throughout the year. She mailed personal letters to the governors of all the states, and to President Lincoln, persuadingmany governors to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. Her editorial was titled,”Our National Thanksgiving”, and began with a biblical quote: “Then he said to them, go your way and eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send persons unto them for whom nothing is prepared; For this day is holy unto the lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the lord is your strength.” Nehemiah, VIII:10

President Lincoln, moved by Mrs. Hale’s editorial and letter, issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863, which reads in part: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.” Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a day “to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion.” The northern states, in response to the proclamation, held services in churches of all denominations, and gave appropriate sermons.

President Roosevelt, on December 26, 1941, approved the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, to be observed in every state and the District of Columbia.

The first international Thanksgiving was held in Washington, D.C. in 1909. It was the brain-child of Rev. Dr. William T. Russell, rector of St. Patrick’s Church of Washington. Dr. Russell called it a Pan American celebration, and it was attended by representatives of all the Latin American countries. The Catholic Church was chosen for the services, since Catholicism is the religion of the Latin American countries.

St. Patick’s Church published an account of the celebration, noting that “it was the first time in the history of the Western World that all the republics were assembled for a religious function…When asked what prompted Dr. Russell in planning a Pan American Thanksgiving celebration, Dr. Russell said, “My purpose was to bring into closer relations the Republics of the Western World. As Christianity had first taught the brotherhood of man, it was appropriate that the celebration should take the form of a solemn mass.” The Pan American celebration continued from year to year.

Some Eastern cities adopted the old world custom of dressing children in the over-sized clothes of their elders, masking their faces, and having them march through the streets blowing tin horns. The children often carried baskets, and solicited fruits and vegetables from house to house to help celebrate the day. This tradition was adapted from an old Scotch wassail custom.

The warm, loving atmosphere of this holiday has been immortalized in song, literature, and poetry, such as the well-known poem by Lydia Maria Child: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…”

Thanksgiving signals the onset of the joyous holiday season which continues until New Year’s Day. The only sad note is the number of people killed on the highways each year, en route to their destinations. Thanksgiving also proclaims the arrival of Santa Claus, who assumes temporary residence at the Staten Island Mall, which will be ablaze with Christmas decorations. Those shoppers brave enough to venture out on “Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, can take advantage of Island sales.

Today, more than ever, Thanksgiving is intrinsic to our time. The need to give thanks is profoundly American. As a people, we have pursued idealism, struggled for individual freedoms, and enjoyed the fruits of capitalism. Like the starship “Enterprise” on Star Trek, Americans have “dared to go where no man has gone before.” The act of giving thanks acknowledges the greater force that inspires this nation, encouraging and demanding excellence. This Thanksgiving, when stomachs are bulging with savory, traditional food, and hearts are full with love for family and friends, it is fitting to give thanks.

Stand up on this Thanksgiving Day, stand

upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and

with clear eyes, believe in your own time and

place. There is not, and there never has

been a better time, or a better place to live.

-Phillip Brooks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – When The Flaw Becomes The Beauty by J. Hope Suis

Brilliant essay on shattered pottery and shattered lives!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to a new contributor to the series today. Author J. Hope Suis and in her first post she describes the beautiful Japanese process of repairing broken items of pottery with liquid gold or silver. They retain their original shape but now have added beauty because of being fractured.

When The Flaw Becomes The Beauty by J. Hope Suis

In today’s Western society we put a high value on new, pristine items. We have no shame in removing and replacing damaged or broken objects from our lives, whether they are tangible ornaments or shattered people. Value is assigned and increased if there are no visible signs of flaws. And we have it all wrong.

The Japanese hold a much greater appreciation for the overall beauty and history of an object and go to great lengths to preserve it.

More examples can be found https://www.pinterest.ie/matsumotoyasuo/kintsugior-kanetukuroi/

Kintsugi is the 500-year-old Japanese art…

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Welcome #RRBC ‘Spotlight’ author: Michael Lynes. “There Is A Reaper.” Losing a Child to Cancer.

A must read memoir of love, loss and recovery

Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke.

RRBC SPOTLIGHT FEATURE MICHAEL Lynes

Hello, everyone and thanks for joining in this #RRBC ‘Spotlight Author Tour for November’.

Today I’m delighted to present author Michael Lynes.

RRBC SPOTLIGHT GUEST MICHAEL LYNES BIO PICAuthor Bio:

Mr. Lynes is a serial entrepreneur who enjoys dry red wine and single malt scotch. When not occupied with arcane engineering projects he spends his time playing with his two grandchildren, baking bread, feeding seasoned hardwood into his ancient Timberline wood stove, working on his various cars, bird watching and taking amateur photographs. His current menagerie includes one short-haired turtle shell cat and a pair of actual turtles.

His last book, There Is A Reaper: Losing a Child to Cancer, was an Indie B.R.A.G. Gold Medallion Honoree in January 2017, a silver-medal winner of the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards for Memoir, a medalist in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards for Memoir, a winner of the 2015 TISBA (The Indie Spiritual Bookk Awards), and…

View original post 603 more words