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Happy Holidays to Our Troops

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I attended a packing evening for Jacob’s Light Foundation Tuesday night.  Dorine Kenny is the founder of the foundation.  She lost her son 7 years ago in Iraq.  Before he was killed she would send him care packages.  She continued to send them to other soldiers after he died.  After all these years the whole operation has grown.  Eleven months a year she sends 285 care packages per month and has so far sent over 400,000 pounds  of supplies and goodies to the troops overseas. 

How did I find her?  The residents in a skilled nursing facility I work for wanted to do a fundraiser for our troops overseas.  I had heard of Jacob’s Light a few years ago during a news broadcast and searched her out.  Jacob’s Light is truly a grass roots organization run on private donations, fundraisers and some grants.  One grant will expire next year so she does need a funding source to keep this amazing organization going.

From socks to lotion, baby powder, to chapstick, pasta, peanut butter, and more, the volunteers — there must have been over 100 people there to help — pick and pack with love.  Tonight I brought 1,387 letters that had been collected as part of the fundraiser we did at the nursing home.  The letters were heartfelt expressions of thanks from some of our local school children.  A letter will be placed in each box that is shipped.

While there I met a gentleman who raises money to buy phone cards.  It is his goal to put a $5 phone card in each box shipped every month throughout the year, which will require $14,000 in donations.  A $5 phone card gives a soldier 2 hours of talk time to call home.

This was a wonderful event where people who could otherwise do nothing to help our soldiers came together to make our troops feel like they are not forgotten.  We do hear so little of what is going on overseas unless something happens to one of our men or women — our sons and daughters. 

It was amazing to be part of an organization that remembers our people — and, whether our soldiers are stationed here or oversees, to recognize the freedoms they help protect and allow us to enjoy.

It was noted that support for our troops shouldn’t only come at holiday time.  They need to know we support them year round.

Maybe one day there will be peace.

For more info on Jacob’s Light Foundation:  www.jacobsprogram.org

Aging. . . and appreciation

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For Thanksgiving we had the pleasure of spending the day with my husband Jim’s Aunt and Uncle.  Both in their late 80’s, and married 63 years, they have been in failing health recently.  And, not realizing it yesterday, I woke up this morning knowing I learned a valuable lesson from them.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of working in a nursing home.  My goal while I worked there was to help people have a great quality of life.  I always appreciated the residents as people with amazing history.  But, after spending time with our Aunt and Uncle, I realize the residents were only shells of who they once were.  Still functioning, still alive, but not the same.  For the residents in the nursing home we were their caretakers, and they were dependent on us.

So, yesterday, while spending time with them, in our Aunt and Uncle’s home, I realized they were so lucky.  Lucky to have been in such good health for so long, lucky to be together for 63 years.  Lucky to be independent, which is truly a gift. 

And, not that I didn’t see it before, but it became increasingly apparent how finite life is.  In their case, at 87, how many good years are left?  How many more years can they live on their own, cherishing each other and the precious time they have together?

That same question does go for each and every one of us, too — every day is a gift.  Did you ever see the movie, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas“, when his heart melted and he found appreciation?  That is how I feel.  With this Thanksgiving, I found appreciation.  For my family, for my husband, for my children.  I realize how important it is to recognize their individuality.  So, maybe my kids’ grades aren’t perfect, but they are healthy and happy and pursuing their way in life.  They are their own people, truly individuals, sorta fun to be around, and I am proud of them. 

Life is a learning process.  I feel a little sad that it took this long for the “wakeup call”.  And I appreciate my visit with Jim’s aging relatives to help me along.

Do I expect to relish in this appreciation every day?  I’m sure not — I’m sure things will get me down some days, or the work stress will take precious time away.  But I will strive to stop myself if I become overwhelmed, or exhausted, and reflect on the good things in my life. 

My goal?  To smile.  My desire?  Just to have a nice day.  Every day. 

And, my hope for you, too.