The unexpected joys are sometimes the best at Christmas time as when I witnessed a unique sparkle that opened my eyes during a family dinner in San Diego – my niece expressing herself through her poetry.
It all started while we were sitting across from each other in the family room where everyone was chatting about their year in school and at work with the usual mixture of fun times and challenges. My niece sat across the room from me with her legs curled beneath her, very quiet and not involved in the conversation. Any parent will agree that one of the biggest hurdles for a girl is the one they make into teenage life.
Karly, now 13, is no different, but I wasn’t going that quiet route since I seldom get to see her and her brother with us living in Northern California. Knowing her thoughts were important to me as I grilled her about school projects, her pets and her plans for college in a short four years. She finally moved across and sat next to me so we could better talk to each other. It was my questions about animals that brought a reserved smile to her face. Yes, she wanted to be involved professionally somehow with animals after she graduates from college.
Animals are the center of a current school project as well, she said, doing a takeoff on “Animal Planet” in an assigned paper that is due in a week or two. Asking her why animals are so special in her life brought out a fresh poetic effort within minutes realizing my interest.
Karly then asked if I would sit next to her at the dinner table as we moved into the dining room with some 10 other family members. When we finished a sumptuous turkey feast, complete with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and corn, she left the room. She brought back a piece of cardboard taken from a Christmas present box. Taking her chair at her place at the end of the table, she began to write her thoughts:
“Sometimes I feel like animals listen more than people do……
“They love you and don’t judge you; they care and don’t fight
“They listen and don’t talk back – they can feel your emotion
and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
“And when they are sad you help them and listen, as they listened to you.”
In the 35 years I operated a photography studio; I had talked with many a high school student attempting to be exposed to their true character before doing a portrait of them. This was a first where a teen wrote out a poem without saying a word to express her inner drive and thoughts about life. She tells me she has a binder full of her poetry that she is sending me and I can’t wait to see and read them all.
Karly is involved in three sports at school that have helped to round out her personality. Without a doubt she is a deep thinker and I think this uncle bonded more than he had expected with this young lady at the dinner table, leaving her thrilled with a simple, but new reporter’s notebook I had in my jacket pocket.
Retired military officer finds Joy in giving of self to strangers
Loneliness, being without family at Christmas, is a sad state for anyone, especially for a recently retired Manteca military officer who was opting to work around her home just to stay busy on Dec. 25, some 30 years after joining the National Guard as an aviator and returning home from the East Coast.
The colonel had called to wish me a Merry Christmas adding that she would soon be returning to a new job in Virginia. I asked about her plans for the special holiday and she responded she would probably be working in her yard this year.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I replied. “Let me give you an idea of what to do to give back and get into the Christmas spirit with people you don’t know, but who you need to meet.”
My suggestion was to spend some time on Christmas at Ripon’s Bethany Home and find the few folks there who might not have family visiting and feel alone themselves. She called me after Christmas as she was leaving Bethany for the second time, sounding so full of life.
She said this was the second time she had been at the rest home in addition to more than three hours on Christmas Day. She was driving back to her home to pack for her flight east, noting that she visited with many of the residents there – most not wanting her to leave and asking her to promise she would come back to see them when she returns in February.
Obviously her yard went untouched, in lieu of enjoying the giving of herself to people who needed the touch of an angel – people she met for the first time.