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Thoughts on Gratitude and Greed

Monday, December 03, 2012

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude as a result of an incident yesterday, and I thought I'd put down a few of my musings, as a way to help me think things through.

Yesterday my son and I went to Mass, and were told there was an Angel Tree in the narthex. Which means that needy people's names, ages, and gift wishes are written on a small construction-paper angel, which is hung on a tree. The idea is that church parishioners, who are presumably much better off than the needy people, will each take an angel or two, purchase the gifts requested, and return them to the church, wrapped and decorated.

I was reluctant to do it, because it wasn't our regular parish (whose angel tree we had missed), and because I am really struggling financially right now. However, my 11-year old son really wanted to get something for a boy his age. He was just jumping with excitement thinking about how happy this boy would be with the gift he would choose. How could I say no? I couldn't.

So I told him to pick an angel and meet me at the car. Several minutes later he came to the car with no angel. I asked him why. Well...there was only one angel for a boy near his age. What had the boy requested? A $50 gift card.

Bless Danny's heart, he knew that that was too much money for me. But it went way beyond that. All his pleasure at the thought of picking out a toy an 11-year old boy would REALLY love...was taken away from him. There's nothing that special about a gift card. Other than the denomination.

And I have been struggling with whether my initial reaction - anger that someone would be that greedy - is appropriate. Yes, I will spend more than $50 on my own kids - not a whole lot more, but more. And yes, sadly, some of that money - maybe the majority of that money - will be on a credit card. Why? Because I want my kids to have a nice Christmas. It won't be super extravagant - but things are expensive and my income has gone down. Maybe that is a mistake, but it is what I will do.

I am far less willing to spend money I don't really have on an angel-tree gift. Right or wrong, my own kids come first.

But it does bug me, when I think that, struggling as I am, I am hugely better off than the vast majority of the world. And I am grateful - very grateful - for the many blessings that I have. Maybe I am the greedy one, or maybe I am raising my kids to be greedy.

Today Danny and I volunteered our time for Elf Louise - a Christmas charity which, like the Angel Tree, aims to provide Christmas gifts for children whose families probably can't provide them. (Angel Tree does include the adults, unlike Elf Louise.) We wrapped presents for two hours. Danny got so much happiness thinking about how happy the kids would be when they got the presents he was wrapping. He and I both enjoy doing things for others. We will never see them get the presents. We will not receive any gratitude from them (although the people in charge today at the wrapping center did thank us for our help). I hope they will be appreciative. I know they may not be.

However, looking at it from my side, I am grateful we had the chance to do something to help others. It may have helped us more than we helped the recipients of the gifts.

This is rambling and not very coherent. Oh well. I may have some further thoughts on this subject later. For the moment, my questions are - Should we demand gratitude? Should we NEED gratitude? Are people who aren't grateful still deserving of help in excess of what is needed to live on (i.e., Christmas presents)? Heck, is it greedy (thus, presumably, ungrateful) for a 10-year-old kid to ask for a $50 gift card?

And one last question: why does the spell-check programme have a problem with the spelling of 'each?' Good grief!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HDHAWK 12/12/2012 8:25PM

    You have given your son such a gift by teaching him how to give to others and that it doesn't have to cost money!

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RUNNER12COM 12/12/2012 8:05PM

    I, too, appreciate how this has really connected with you. And good for you for teaching your own child the value of thinking of (and doing for) others.

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    The fact that you are thinking so deeply on the subject is a testament to your heart. I applaud that. While we can only guess the thoughts of others, we can always test our own hearts and lead our children. You're doing great.

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BLITZEN40 12/3/2012 9:36PM

    It's always such a good feeling to help others. If you want to benefit most from that feeling you have to put aside thoughts of whether your help will truly be appreciated. Unfortunately often the people who really need the help the most don't get it and the ones who are given that help have such an attitude of entitlement, feeling grateful is the last thing on their minds. I am making a generalization here, there are some recipients of freebies who seem thankful, but by enlarge, from my experience in working with them, they are not.

Good parents put their kids first, so of course it's natural as a good parent to give your own children the best gifts you can. Not everyone is in the position to give to the needy, so if you can do that in addition to supporting your own family, that's great, but certainly not expected. It's not greedy to take care of your own children first... it's responsible. And it's also normal to hope for some level of gratitude on occasion, especially when you go out of your way to help, but it may not be a good idea to expect it, especially from folks you don't know personally. Sometimes just knowing that you did a good thing has to be enough. And a request for a $50 gift card on a giving tree as a child's Christmas wish seems a little fishy to say the least... kinda sounds to me like somebody's mom or dad wants $50. And yes! Spell check always tries to turn "each" into "etch". Quite perplexing.

Great blog, and so nice of you to help out and wrap all those presents! (and think of all those calories you burned while doing it) emoticon emoticon

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TIMDEB 12/3/2012 7:08PM

  Thanks for sharing this story on SP. Great that you are even thinking about this with your son as most of us just go on just worried about our own lives. God bless you.

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Farmers' Market

Saturday, December 01, 2012

I grew up going to the local Farmer's Market fairly regularly, and have always loved being able to get fresh local produce. That market, sadly, is nothing but a shadow of its former glorious self, but I still go whenever I visit my mother.

Here in South Texas, it took me awhile to find a farmers' market. There are actually quite a few of them around, but none is convenient to my home, and I wasn't motivated to seek farther afield until recently. I have found a decent little market which, depending on what vendors show up on any given day, has a good selection of things I want.

Today I bought lots of winter veggies - sweet potatoes, small red potatoes, carrots, beets. I love beets. Lately I have taken to roasting my veggies, so that's what I did tonight. I also bought a small tuna steak. What a delicious meal - and such a good feeling that I made nutritious choices.

And - maybe not such a good thing - I have enough for an army. I will be eating these veggies for many days to come. I hope I don't get tired of them!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BLITZEN40 12/2/2012 1:48AM

    Farmer's markets are so fun! They are seasonal where I live and only run through the summer. It's always so inspiring to see what others have grown and created. Enjoy your take and way to go shopping healthy!

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3RDBABYWEIGHT 12/2/2012 12:38AM

    I love Farmer's Markets! Enjoy your veggies!

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Service Project

Thursday, November 29, 2012

There's nothing like volunteering for a good cause to make you feel better. However, there may also be other effects, good and bad. Yesterday my son and I spent a couple of hours taping together boxes that will be used to package Christmas food donations. The bending over and lots of moving around were actually a decent amount of aerobic exercise. I was surprised to discover how very sweaty I was - and I'm quite sore today. That was good. I worked constantly, too, and didn't take a single rest. I was tired, very tired.

However, I also had quite a few struggles with the tape dispensers we had to use. They were the kind one holds by an ergonomic handle, and they are supposed to be easy to use...well, after trying to use two of them that simply refused to dispense the tape, no matter how hard I pulled on it, I got a third one that had the tape threaded in the wrong way. I decided to go ahead and use it, because I was at least able to get the tape out of it. Tearing the tape, though, required a little manual assistance - which left me with a clear pattern of cuts on my hand - cuts that look exactly like the cutting blade on the tape dispenser. My badge of honour, of sorts.

I feel good about having done it. There is nothing like doing something for others to make one feel better about life!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TIMDEB 12/3/2012 7:09PM


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BLITZEN40 11/30/2012 12:49PM

    Don't you love it when you get a good workout out of doing daily tasks that you had planned to do anyway? And it's an extra bonus to get that great feeling from helping others. Sorry about the cuts, hope they're healed up soon! Neosporin and bandaids might help that along. Overall though, I'd say your day was a win! emoticon

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GARDEMON 11/29/2012 11:25PM

  Yep, volunteering can be a good calorie burning activity. I have experienced it also.

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Back to Real Life

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Well, my little Thanksgiving vacation is over and I'm sad. But life does go on. Monday I got up very early to drive to the airport, return the rental car, and catch an 8:15 flight. Only a few mishaps getting to the airport - like ending up driving on the wrong side of the road, going to a federal institution instead of the rental-car return facility - but that's fairly typical for me. I also forgot and put a bottle of Woolite in my carry-on bag, which of course got confiscated, but, for me, I didn't do all that badly.

Flew to Dallas, got picked up by my boys (the 22-year old wouldn't appreciate that term, but they'll always be my boys), got my car back, and drove home. As tired as I was, I felt fortunate that I didn't get sleepy on the road. We unloaded the car, grabbed a pickup dinner, and went to bed. This morning I stepped on the scale (mistake!) and discovered that I had gained almost four pounds. :-( My eating had been totally erratic and off schedule, and I had eaten out much more than was good for me (and much more than I wanted to, but that's another story). I am - I most devoutly hope - back on track again now. This is why I avoid the scale for the most part - just check it every so often.

I do worry about eating more over the holidays, but things may not be too bad, since I am not going anywhere, will not be invited to parties (I never am, unless they have to do with my kids' activities, and a Boy Scout party isn't likely to derail my weight-loss efforts), and I don't plan to do any significant baking...maybe one or, at most, two batches of cookies, some of which I will give away. I would be much more worried if I were going back to my Mom's.

It's all good, right?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Getting back on track in the main thing, so trust the process. I'm being urged by the wiser part of myself to ditch the scale except for once-a-month. We are in this for the long-haul after all.
My "boy" is 23. They'll understand one day.

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BLITZEN40 11/28/2012 12:36AM

    Don't beat yourself up over 4 pounds.. I think we're all pretty much in the same boat! It's the holidays, some fluctuation is to be expected right? You'll probably take it right back off now that you're back on track. Glad you made it home safely and enjoyed your Thanksgiving with your family. emoticon

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Days Five and Six

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Not so much to write about in these past two days, because it has mostly been peaceful and quiet. Mom pretty much just watches TV most of the time, and she gets herself a reasonably decent breakfast and lunch. She always remembers her morning pills, but only seems to remember the evening ones herself if she eats at home. And...she doesn't much like to eat at home. It's funny - growing up we essentially always ate at home, and she made us healthy, balanced meals. Now, she really doesn't want me to cook, even though I also cook healthy, balanced meals. She would rather eat out.

Growing up, I remember only ever eating out when we were on vacation. Otherwise, never, unless Mom and Dad were giving a party or going to a party, and then we had fast food. For birthdays, we kids got to pick our favourite meal for her to make for us. Now, all she really wants is to eat out, and she wants to eat out at restaurants that are so expensive that I am appalled just looking at the prices. She can afford it, and she really doesn't overeat. She is at a good weight for her height. I don't know why it bothers me so much that she spends so much money on 'out food.' It isn't that I am insulted - I would just as soon not have to cook and clean up if I don't have to.

Other than taking Mom out, I have wrapped the Christmas presents I brought to leave here, done a bit of laundry, read a bit, done some crossword puzzles, and some grocery shopping. Plus, most important of all, I have spent a lot of time with my daughter, which is a rare treat. Sadly, I can't really much enjoy the time with Mom because her hearing is so bad it is an exercise in frustration to try to have a conversation with her. She won't wear her hearing aids, and she needs to. Sigh.

Tomorrow Cecily and I are heading out. I will drop her off back at her college, and perhaps meet some of her friends. Then I will go to the home of some friends who are letting me crash on their couch before leaving at 0-dark-30 to catch an early plane on Monday.

It has mostly been a lovely break and I am sorry to be going back to real life. But...cheers!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BLITZEN40 11/27/2012 11:01AM

    Sounds like a peaceful visit. I'm with you on not going out to eat much, especially when trying to stay on track with weight loss. You can cook a home cooked meal that's much healthier for less than a third the cost of a restaurant purchased meal, and that's using top quality ingredients (which restaurants don't typically use). However, it sounds like your Mom is home for most of the day, and a lot of older people who are mostly home bound just need a change of scenery at least once a day to stay mentally healthy. And while I'm sure she appreciates and enjoys your cooking, she probably thinks it's nice to give you a break from it while you visit. So I am glad to hear you enjoyed it!

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DLDROST 11/24/2012 11:14PM


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