A PARADE OF CHRISTMASES 2008-2017

 

QUO VADIS, DOMINO? (WHERE TO, MY LORD?)

For me, this has always been the time to take stock of my life; look both back and project forward from this point in time.  Maybe start formulating my New Year’s resolutions to correct or reaffirm the course I am on. Maybe ask for spirit guidance: “Quo Vadis, Domino?” (Where To, My Lord).

To help in this discernment process, it is always good to be reminded of what happened in the past. This Parade of Christmases 2008-2017, for example. How did my previous resolutions pan out? What did I learn from those that didn’t?


2017 – BACK IN ARIZONA

 

This was our first Christmas after living full time back in Arizona since 2008.  Here’s our Christmas Message 2017 video which we made on Saint Nicholas Day – Dec 19, 2017

For the full story, see… https://wp.me/p1jFeo-2rA

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

These photos were taken right after our tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner with her family.

2008

Elizabeth and I had just returned from a house-hunting trip to Hawaii but had not yet decided on which property to buy.  In fact, we got into a fight (not over the move) and broke up for a while. So we spent our Christmas 2008 apart.

Then I started to receive signs from the Spirit realm. This was the first one. I called it my God’s Christmas card.

God Xmas Card_2008

I spent the Christmas Eve 2008 hiking in the McDowell Mountains to my shaman’s apucheta. I did not realize at the time that that was actually Calvary Hill Arizona. That revelation was to come five years later (at Easter 2013).

XmasEve_2008

 

See  2008 Arizona Christmas stories at… http://yinyangbob.com/Photos/Arizona/2008/Dec2.html


UPLIFTING CHRISTMAS STORIES, Part 1

How crass and godless Christmas in Singapore led to my year-round philanthropy

Season of Miracles: God’s Christmas Card

SCOTTSDALE, Dec 18, 2008 – Perhaps not surprisingly, the preceding story and “God’s Christmas card” I received this year evoked a number of nice reader reactions. Here’s one from an Ohio friend…

“Hi Bob, love your Christmas card! Best one I have received,” she said. “More philanthropy = less stress.”

“And more joy,” I added in my reply. But I also said that we should both thank God for the card. “I just noticed it and held up the camera to his/her artwork.”

This friend’s poignant comment about the positive correlation between philanthropy and stress reduction reminded me of a story I wrote 11 years ago (see “Singapore: Materialism Without Idealism”, Dec 1997 – http://www.truthinmedia.org/Bulletins/tim97-12-2.html).

NO MORE CHRISTMAS GIFTS

When I returned home from that trip, I told my kids that there would be no Christmas gifts for them that year or ever.

“We are among the most fortunate families I know,” I said. “You’ve already received ample gifts in life. Christmas is not about shopping. It’s a celebration of a birthday of a special baby boy who has given so much to others.”

We should be doing things for others who are less fortunate, I added. And we should do it year-round, not just at Christmas. My two daughters were in college at the time. They seemed a little perplexed but understanding.

From that point on, Christmas lasted 365 days a year for me. And I have been helping those who cannot help themselves – the orphans and the elderly in various countries around the world. I have been also helping people in this country who have talents but no resources to develop them. Directly, not through various “charitable” organizations who skim a lot of donations as “management fees.”

DONATIONS TO ORPHANEGES IN RUSSIA

Sometimes, my daughters and their college friends delivered the donations directly, such as to some St. Petersburg or Moscow orphanages. Afterward, some of these American college kids wrote lovely “thank you letters” to me for giving them the opportunity for “one of the most fulfilling experiences,” as they watched those deprived kids’ eyes widen in delight at the love and kindness that the gifts brought them.

Check out “An Uplifting Christmas Story” (see below) about one such a young American college student. And not only was she paid back for her good deed by the children’s gratitude, God also rewarded her in a special way. She met her future husband on that trip. Last I heard, they are happily married and living in Chicago.

Later, when my elder daughter lived in Moscow, she continued the same practice of giving one’s time and kindness as a gift, along with some of her Russian co-workers at an international bank where they all worked. This, in turn, inspired some Truth in Media readers also to contribute and send donations (see “A Heartwarming Christmas Story,” Jan 2001 – http://www.truthinmedia.org/Bulletins2001/tim2001-1-1.html).

And “one good turn deserves another,” as they say. The gifts of kindness inspired some of the Russian orphan kids to create their own artful “thank you” cards (shown above), which they later sent to me via my daughter and her friends.

This year, for the first time, my (now grown) kids asked me if it would be okay for us not to exchange gifts (they kept sending presents to me even though I had stopped doing it 11 years ago). Of course, I welcomed it with a big grin.

Have a joyous holiday season!

For more, see… http://yinyangbob.com/Photos/Arizona/2008/Dec2.html


UPLIFTING CHRISTMAS STORIES, Part 2

February 1998

JUST SAY “NO!”
(to Christmas commercialism)

… and give to the needy year-round

IRELAND, SERBIA, RUSSIA – LOVE TRIANGLE

What I meant was, say “no” to cards; “no” to cookies; “no” to decorations; “no” to colored lights; “no” to school pageants; “no” to presents (why not try charitable donations, or volunteer work instead?); “no” to Christmas trees (forests will thank you); “no” to turkey (you’ve probably just had one for Thanksgiving, anyway); “no” to fruitcakes (the New World Order already has them in ample supply)…

In other words, just say “no” to the Christmas commercialism. And you will feel instant stress relief. In fact, if you follow my above suggestions, you may discover the true joy of giving rather than suffer the stress of spending. I know. I am speaking from experience…

Upon my return from Singapore last December (see “Singapore: Materialism without Idealism” – TiM GW Bulletin 97/12-2, 12/08/97 – http://www.truthinmedia.org/Bulletins/tim97-12-2.html), I was so disgusted with the commercialism of Christmas that I informed my family that they would not be getting any Christmas presents from me.

First, because they are more fortunate than many other Christians around the world. Second, because I didn’t want the money to end up in some (non-Christian) merchant’s pockets, such as those in Singapore or Manhattan. Instead, I told them that I would donate an equivalent amount of money to the needy in three Christian countries (remember the meaning of trinity?) where people are especially deprived – Russia, Serbia and Ireland.

IRELAND, SERBIA, RUSSIA – LOVE TRIANGLE

Ireland was easy. I simply mailed a check to a friend I knew and trusted.

Serbia was also easy. Relatively speaking. I simply hand-delivered the money to a Bishop I knew personally. He took it to an orphanage in Kragujevac, a town in central Serbia, where 30 children (mostly girls) who had lost their parents in the latest Balkan war were being looked after and educated by the nuns at a Christian monastery.

But Russia… What to do about Russia, I fretted, considering all the stories about the rampant crime and corruption in that country?

Finally, I heard that a friend of my elder daughter’s, a 22-year old woman of non-Slavic ethnic background, but a Heartland America Christian who had lived in Russia before, was going again to Russia in January of 1998 for a two-week vacation. She kindly agreed to take the money, and to make sure it reached the real needy, preferably some children or the elderly who cannot help themselves, rather than end up in some institution’s or manager’s account.

I also told this young lady, as I had told the Bishop earlier, that I wanted the donation to be made anonymously, with a simple annotation – “from an Orthodox Christian.” After all, He, whose son’s birthday the donation was intended to celebrate, already knows everything.

Upon this young woman’s return from Russia, in early February, I received her heartwarming report. It made my eyes water. I want to share it with you – the Truth in Media readers, my spiritual friends – because her account what happen was so uplifting; so “Christmassy.” As long as there are Christians in America like this fine young lady, there is a good chance that Good will eventually prevail over the Evil even if the Evil seems to have the upper hand right now.

This is what she wrote…

———-

February 9, 1998

My trip was wonderful and it was hard to come back. St. Petersburg wins me over every time. My mind is still on my vacation, so excuse my lengthy explanation of where your money went. But I welcome the opportunity to reminisce.

I think I found a wonderful place for your money and I hope that you will feel the same. I’m well aware of, and have witnessed first hand, what too often happens with well-intended, generous gifts when they fall into the hands of the unscrupulous individuals. Suffice it to say that I was concerned foremost that the money end up outside of a “director’s pocket.”

I have the good fortune of knowing a very good family in St. Petersburg and from the minute I told them what I needed to do, no one sat still until it was done. They are not naive either, and understood the importance of finding a reliable place for the money. The mother of the family, Nina, is a very religious individual and also considered the church. However, it was her opinion that the Orthodox churches (at least in St. Pete) have “a lot” of money right now.

Just to attest to that, I was surprised to see the progress of restoration on a number of churches I had previously seen just a year ago. It was then, the general consensus that the money could best be used by an orphanage. I must admit that I also have a soft spot in my heart for providing for the children of a struggling country since I taught in a school there.

At any rate, that decided, we then thought it best to find an orphanage, go and find out what was needed, and then make the purchases ourselves to be sure that the money was not misused. Somewhere in between all of this I took the elektrichkaya to Pushkin about 30 minutes from St. Petersburg where Ekaterinskii Dvorets is located. As things happen in Russia, my friends have an acquaintance there who was to serve as my LIVELY guide around the city. This woman is about my grandmother’s age but has as much energy as I did when I was about 4. Truly a delightful woman. At any rate, she knew of a place called “Aist” which means stork, that was a shelter of sorts for children.

So after a freezing but inspiring jaunt around Pushkin, we went back to her place to warm ourselves with some borshch and made a phone call. Over the phone (three of us spoke to them in one call – you can imagine how amusing this scene was: me, the American with sorry Russian skills and two impatient Russian women telling each other and me what to say and then in the end just grabbing the phone and saying it themselves). They seemed to say all of the right things. However, in the end I wasn’t satisfied and I wanted to go there and see for myself.

Surprised at the ease with which we found this place (perhaps you’ve had some experience of your own finding a Russian address!), we rang the doorbell and were met minutes later by a young girl of about 8. She led us to the director’s office who received us eagerly. In the short walk from the door to the office my eyes were checking out the place.

At the time, it was still unclear to me what exactly this place was (I gathered it was more than an orphanage), but one things was clear, it was a healthy environment for kids. We visited with the director, a very energetic woman, for some time. She explained that all of the children there have parents, but most of them were alcoholics or abusive or had simply kicked their kids out onto the streets because they couldn’t afford to keep them at home.

We ended up staying there for a very long time and she shared a lot with us, but since I’m at work and once I get started, I wouldn’t stop, I’ll just share with you some of the things I thought to be very important and different from a lot of “orphanage-type” establishments.

The kids are free to come and go on their own so that they do not feel as though they are trapped there or that it is like a prison. The door is always open to them when they want to come, when they need a hot meal, but they retain a sense of freedom and independence – responsibility for themselves, if you will.

Unlike lots of “shelters” this was much more than a roof over the kids’ heads. They provide enriching activities for the kids, encouraging theater, painting, music, etc. etc. Which from what I can tell does much to nurture a sense of pride and accomplishment. They celebrate birthdays, holidays, etc – do the sorts of things a family would do.

They place the children at a new school in the city so that they are not burdened by the stereotypes and judgements that were established with them in their old schools.

They work to place the kids in some sort of job or internship after they graduate from school.

They encourage the children to try to maintain a relationship with their parents and even work to rehabilitate or find opportunities for the parents.

All of the furniture, etc. was donated much of it by the few staff that work there. The are in desperate need of some renovation, but don’t have the money and as of yet, no one has offered. They survive mainly on donations form what I understood. Currently there are 17 children there and only space (beds) for 14. A lot of what makes the place bright (at first it seemed to me that maybe this place wasn’t in such bad shape and didn’t really need the money) is work that the children do themselves. Pictures, crafts, etc. simple but with lots of heart.

To say the very least, I felt very good about leaving your money there. For their official books they needed someone’s name to put down, I gave them mine and they indicated somehow that it wasn’t actually from me. Also, they have a very home-made sort of thank you that the kids sign and it has the shelter’s emblem on it (they had a contest among the kids to draw the emblem). They filled out the certificate, I instructed them to leave the name blank and that you would fill it in yourself.

They were truly grateful. I toured the place and met some of the kids – it’s a place where I’d love to tutor English if I end up spending some substantial time in the Petersburg area. I took some pictures which I will send you and was invited back to a concert if I come in the summer.

I also left my address as they thought they would write and let me know exactly what the money was used for and hopefully send more pictures.

In short, it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I had on my short trip to Russia. Thanks for providing me with the opportunity to do that. If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them, or get the answers from my friends who were with me.

ALTZAR: The pictures did arrive. Eventually. Along with an official looking certificate with the children’s crayon- and marker-scribbled signatures. It now hangs on a wall in a special place in our house. And it is my dearest Christmas present ever: For, it stands for the gift of giving! And yes, there is even an official Soviet-style stamp at the bottom of it to prove it. 🙂 But I “forgive” the orphanage directors for that. They meant well…]

———-

That’s it. That was the end of one of the most uplifting letters I have ever received. After all, Christmas is not about shopping. It’s not about fattening the merchants’ pockets or our tummies. It’s about the joy of a very special baby boy being born. And we don’t need to spend any money to feel that, do we?

Merry Christmas!

For more see… http://www.truthinmedia.org/Bulletins/tim98-12-4.html

 

 

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