By the time you are reading this, we are well into the Advent season. Many of us are in the throes of the final preparations for gift exchanges, holiday dinners, and parties. This is the time of year I love. It’s a time for ongoing good will, cheer, and a giving spirit.
In the midst of this season, though, bad times and catastrophes can occur. These are situations which test our good will, cheer, and spirits, sometimes to the breaking point. I’m not talking about the unexpected guest or two after the table has been set. Nor is it a disaster when the stove malfunctions, leaving the turkey raw after three hours. These are occasions to celebrate — more loved ones in our circle, and more time to celebrate while we switch ovens.
Some of our families or friends are struck by true calamities: fires in homes, devastating illnesses or accidents, loss of job, or death of a loved one. These are events that require the rest of us to dig deeply for our giving spirit and make time in our busy holiday preparations to support others.
There is a particular news story from last week that is weighing on my mind. A mother left her toddler in the running car one morning to go into a convenience store to buy cigarettes. During that brief time, someone got into her car and took off, with her baby in the back seat.
This story had a happy ending, as the car was found abandoned not far away and the child was unharmed. The police found the car, in fact, within 15 minutes.
The news stated that the woman might be charged with leaving a vehicle unattended. Some folks were outraged at both her behavior and the seeming “lightness” of the charges, given the total preventability of the incident.
For me, I suspect this will be 15 minutes that will be replayed in her head forever, and not with any good feelings. Guilt, anguish, and self-loathing might be normal responses, even though the child was returned safely. The “what-ifs” will never leave this woman.
Many of us can relate to times we have done something incredibly stupid and didn’t suffer significant consequences. Lessons learned can become tangible things we can do to let others know we love them. I think this story provides two ideas for wonderful holiday gifts.
The most obvious one is to never leave a child in a car unattended. For that matter, don’t leave your aging parent, grandparent, or dog in the car unattended. Why take chances, even for “just a minute.”
The other gift is about the cigarettes. Had the woman not needed to purchase cigarettes, the incident might not have happened. The best gift she can give her child (and herself) is to stop smoking. We lost a dear family member last year to lung cancer, so I can tell you firsthand how awful it is. Stop smoking, please!
The gifts of safety and a healthy life are truly things to celebrate.
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.