The Elves Did It

Christmas Morning has always been a special time.  Take a look at just how special Christmas really is through a 3 year old’s eyes.  I’m sure it brings you back to your own childhood memories as a kid, right? Completely beside yourself yet?  Good.  Now remember when that toy didn’t actually make you look like Bo or Luke Duke?  Or maybe your dolly didn’t actually drive that corvette.  Don’t feel bad.  I’m still waiting for Mrs. Butterworth to talk to me about my pancakes.

The disappointment that comes with impossible expectations is just part of Christmas, right?
One of our friends found a way to get your kids involved in the magic of Christmas, get rid of disappointment, and make the magic of Christmas last a little longer.
The elves did it.

If your kids can read make them stop here.  I’m going to divulge the elves’ secrets and I don’t want to end up on the naughty list for it.

From what I understand, you buy the elf from your local retailer (without the kids knowing of course). You read the story of Christmas (Jesus and Santa) before they go to sleep.  The story reinforces the fact that the elves are watching and reporting back to Santa.  You put the elf in a different place each night after your little one goes to bed. When they wake up, the elf is in a new place and has been frozen because they are awake.  You do this starting sometime after Thanksgiving all the way up to Christmas Morning.  Expect good behavior and lots of “buy-in” from the kids.

Brett, thanks for the idea. Steve, thanks for telling me about it.  If I got anything wrong, feel free to correct me with a comment.

-Ryan McKinney

The Kindness of Strangers


I had the opportunity to ring the bell for the Salvation Army this year.  In the past I have done as many of you have.  Pretended that “you gave at the office” or faked a call on your cell phone to avoid the deep, soul searching stare that is followed haunting “Merry Christmas”.  I’ve thought for years, there must be a better way to get money for needy people.

All of that changed this year when I picked up that bell.  I just knew I’d be looking at my watch the whole time and feeling mortified thinking that people would look at me strangely.  Actually, they did.  In just a small window of time, I met a woman that worked for 23 years as a nurse in the hospitals of New York’s Hells Kitchen.  She opened her wallet and her conversation with gratitude.  She explained that for those 23 years she always worked on Christmas Eve, because she couldn’t stand for those sick people to be there all alone.  Each year the Salvation Army brought gifts to those lonely people and she added that they never forgot to bring one for her too.  I couldn’t believe that this little red bucket and gold bell meant so much to someone.

Another man came and folded his bills up, careful not to show how much he was putting in.  He told me that the Salvation Army got him off the “sauce” years ago and he never misses an opportunity to give back.  He told me that he saves change for months leading up to Christmas just to make sure he always has some to share with the The Salvation Army.  Again, I was blown away.

An elderly lady came up to the bucket and said thank you to me.  I was floored.  I had given no money. I had only rung a small bell and stood in one spot.  I told her she was mistaken.  The hard work was putting the money in the bucket  not ringing a bell.  Her words were, “You don’t know how much power that little bell has, young man”.  I guess I didn’t, but it was just a bell right.  She then reminded me I hadn’t had a Christmas that  I could remember not hearing the bell of the Salvation Army and what it would mean if there wasn’t one.
As for thinking this was not a great way to raise money, I kept a tally as best I could just to see.  In one hour I had collected right around a hundred bucks.  Sure, there were people that didn’t give, but now I was thinking that maybe they gave at the last place the saw someone ringing the bell.  There were a lot more people that did give.

The last person I had the pleasure of meeting came up to the red kettle and dropped in his contribution.  I offered a “Thank You”.  He took it and exchanged it for one of my most favorite sayings. “Young man,” he said, “The only thing evil needs to flourish is for good men to do nothing, keep up the good work.”  I wanted to cry.  I felt terrible for all of those years of ignoring the bell ringing.  There I was, my mouth wanting to come unhinged and fall open.  All I could say was, Merry Christmas.  He looked me right in the eyes and said, “attaboy!”

All in all, it was a great experience.  Ringing that bell did more for me than anyone else, I think.  I know I will do it again.

It was strange to see the kindness in people’s eyes as the dropped that money in the red kettle.  Knowing that this year of all years, that Christmas would be a little tighter.  If you ever miss seeing the Spirit of Christmas, call your Salvation Army and Volunteer for an hour or two.  You will see more love and random acts of kindness than you will be able to stand.


Are You Serious, Clark?


Just a few more pieces and Pop’s house will finally look a little like Christmas.  We actually had to be careful of landing aircraft nearby.

My dad is a uniquely thoughtful man.  Each year, he decorates his house for the Christmas season.  He says it is for Gabby.  That may be true, but I think it is for him too.

Gabby’s chin nearly got bruised from hitting the floor when she saw the lights at Pop’s house.  She loves it.  Christmas only comes once a year.  If it came more often, the Jacksonville Electrical Authority may lose power to the grid.

Seriously, we had a great time visiting my dad this past weekend.  We weren’t able to shop as much as we’d like.  Dad wasn’t really feeling well and we didn’t really have a lot of time either.  We had a great dinner and wandered around the St. John’s Towne Center outdoor mall for an hour or so and then got some grub at the Maggiano’s there.

We shared a chocolate cake wedge the that was so big I thought a lady was going to jump out of it at any moment.  Pop will be up for Christmas in our neck of the woods soon.  And if he’s nice, Santa may even leave him a little something in his stocking too!