Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Absolutely Best Christmas Ever!

Warning: This is going to take a few minutes to read, so if you're pressed for time, come back just a bit later. First note: Just so you know, the family is described in my profile with two changes. Joe, the ER Doc is now Capt. Joe and is in the Air Force presently in Iraq and Daniel, a grandson is out of school and now working with the handicapped.

Here's the story: Last June my husband and I started thinking about Christmas.
It is very difficult to buy gifts for families and kids who are spread from California to Texas, South Carolina, Michigan, New Mexico and Georgia. I had picked up the idea, from a local pastor and an article in a magazine, to give everyone the money we would have spent and asked them to give it to a worthy cause other than just turning around and writing a check to a well known charity. Husband had no better idea so we sent off the checks and agreed that we would exchange stories as to how the money was used on Christmas.

Some time ago we had started the tradition of all the Petersons gathering in odd numbered years so the spouses could have first choice in alternate years. This year only the adult grandsons, all single, were not with us. The other two, Stuart and Daniel, are sons of our 4th kid who was killed in an accident in 1988 so we have not had the same kind of relationship as the others. But we talk to them and see them when we can. So there were 16 of us together at the youngest kid's house in the Atlanta area.

We started with Captain Joe since his mom, Sally, was reading from an email and when finished, she was emailing him through the whole process. This is a much abbreviated account since he has his dad's penchant for shaggy dog stories and they can go on and on and on. He was in the States at the Air Force Academy last summer so there wasn't much chance to see need there. Went to Germany in September and except for buying a bum a glass of Gluwein for 5 euros, didn't happen on anything that really fit the criteria. Landed in Iraq in November and since everything is furnished in the military and it's against regulations to give anything to the civilian Iraqis working on the base he was stymied. Until.....

realizing that watching television on the AFN is, in his words "painful" due to commercials, etc. he bought the 6th year of "The Office" installed in his computer, every Thursday he is hooking it up to a big screen and showing 2 episodes. They are plenty excited and he is "spreading the gift of laughter (Christmas Cheer, but now there are also small milestones every week to look forward to. Baby steps if you will......What About Bob anyone.)"

He wanted a consensus as to whether this was appropriate from his aunts, uncles and sister, etc. My response was that it always bugs me when liberals criticize churches for spending money on art and architecture and that there is "food for the soul as well as food for the body" and I think he did just great! I hope you all agree.

Then we started around the room....

#1 son, Don, is responsible for "turn arounds" in a Chevron refinery and works 12 hour days with his shift workers in 8-12 week stretches. I'm not sure how often this happens, but it seems pretty frequent. He and Connie admitted to praying over what to do and two days before they were to leave for Georgia the morning news featured a story of the Southwest Community Center having burned down and all the toys for the children stored there had been destroyed. He drove over and talked to the woman who had started the center some seventeen years earlier who insisted on giving him a receipt. He saw this as an opportunity to leverage the funds and gave her an extra $20 since he could make it up on his taxes.

Great grandson, Joshua who is 8, is a real baseball fan and Little League is his life. His dad, Stephen, told us that the teams try to take as many kids as possible to the Little League World Series, but there are always a few who even with joint fund raisers, are unable to make the trip. Their money would tip the scales for one more little boy or girl to have an experience not otherwise available to them.

Grandkids Dane, Jr. and Anna Kate attend a Christian school in the Atlanta area and during these economic times the need for scholarships is higher than usual. They love their school and their friends and combined their funds to help out. I won't use the name, of course, but they spoke of one boy in particular who really needed the help and deserves it.

Their mom and dad, Jen and Dane, who is COO of an Atlanta hospital, helped a local doctor who has started a free clinic/health center in a neighborhood where there is great need. Interesting aside: some of the scenes in the movie "The Blind Side" were filmed in that neighborhood.

Kathy and husband, Laney, benefited a program called the "Wishing Tree" which helps single mothers. I'm thinking that is a category in which we all have friends or acquaintances.

Joshua's brother, Jayden who is 4, and Mom Julie elected to help out a family in which the Mother had died of cancer last year. The children are classmates of Joshua, who also attends a Christian school in Texas.

Paula, granddaughter who is Asst. Principal at a Middle School, knows a young family whose son has cancer and they wanted to go on a really great Thanksgiving trip. She helped.

Dave and Sal, my Regional Supt. of the Year and Sal who is Business Mgr of her ISD are around needy kids all the time. One of their projects is to try to have schools help kids go to college and get funds before graduation. They want them to be able to draw on the Legacy funds as they need them plus if they can get a year finished while still in high school, they are really saving in the long run even if the schools pick up the tuition. This could save as much as 25% and many kids are able to do this if not with ease, at least it's very doable.

They are fans of "The Outliers" theory of high expectations and helping kids by putting them in the right place at the right time. One young man in particular, couldn't afford the books even though he had the talent and time to accomplish a year of college in high school. They told him a benefactor had donated money for just such a situation, but also indicated that he could earn the extra money by shoveling walks at the school. He jumped at the chance!

So there you have it. We've had great Christmases every year. We have the Peterson Olympics which are a riot, a chance to spend 4-5 days together laughing and eating and playing games. You name it, we've done it.

But as a proud and humbled Mom, now you know why I think this was the best ever.
God bless........

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