Making a Difference

‘Tis the Season I’ve always loved, but since I seem to live my life trying to catch up, it’s a season of madness as well as joy. I’m looking for ways to minimize the former and accentuate the latter. Our holiday season began–as it has more than a few times over the years–with a time to mourn, which is why I’ve been AWOL from the convertible. The deaths of two dear family members within two days of each other rocked our world in so many ways. But one of the amazing things about sadness is the clarity that comes with it. What’s really important, and how can I tune out the noise and tune into what matters right here, right now, in this dizzying season?

First, I resisted the temptation to minimize the decorating. I was so tempted, but the faces of my grandchildren nipped that temptation in the bud. We unpacked all the boxes and turned the “common rooms” into an uncommon fairy land, much the way Susie described the house she grew up in. It’s a project that takes some time, so I tried to stick with cheerful music in the background. But the season just past–election season–turned me into a serious news junkie, and while cold turkey wasn’t an option (the world will surely end if I don’t keep track of what’s happening) I’m finding that by tuning in and out, I can take heart in the nobility of the human spirit–the people who do things simply because they want to make the world a better place. Two to share, but more are there.

I happened on the broadcast of CNN heroes during a channel flipping. All 10 “ordinary” people were inspiring, but Anne Mahlum particularly impressed me. She started running in her hometown (and one of mine) of Bismarck. She moved to Philadelphia, where she regularly ran past the homeless people on the streets. One day she stopped at the door of a homeless shelter, went inside and said, “I want to take some people running.” It was an odd offer, but one man took her up on it. Right then and there, simply by sharing something she loved with someone who needed someone who cared to show him a way, she started a program called “Back On My Feet.” What an idea! I get chills when I think about it, and I wonder what I could do. I doubt that Anne started out with a big plan. I suspect that it started with one act, one day, one person.

I stopped hanging the greens long enough to write down the web addy for Teresa, the Green Bag Lady when I heard her story on some otherwise forgotten broadcast. She’s trying to save the earth one cloth bag at a time. Before the broadcast she was sewing and sending out free cloth shopping bags to anyone who asked. Now she’s “sewed out.” Publicity and the word free brought a flood of requests, but her web site features patterns for the bags, ideas reusable for holiday wrapping (shown at the top), and plenty of good cheer for all of us. Check it out.

One last earth friendly site gleaned from my background “music” offers a way to stop getting catalogs you don’t want and save some trees. All you do is fill out a form and opt in or out.

Have you run into any good news lately? ‘Tis the season to spread the good news.

My gift for our seasonal celebration will be an autographed book from my stash (I’ll give the winner some choices) and a vintage handkerchief from my collection. (I’m a collection junkie, too!) We’ll choose a winner from those who comment between December 12 and midnight on the 13th.


About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
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35 Responses to Making a Difference

  1. Virginia says:

    Well I haven’t had any real good news lately, but I haven’t had any bad news so this is a plus!!!Have a great weekend!

  2. I’m finally well after a week in bed with a nasty cold. That’s good news to me. I watched a movie on TV about a young man with Tourette’s Syndrome who went on to become an elementary teacher. It made my life’s challenges pale in comparison.I LOVE the green bag lady site. She has a video on You Tube to show how to make those bags. I’ve bought some from various stores but never thought to use them to wrap a gift. This might just make me pull out my sewing machine and make some bags. I did give a wedding gift in a reusable bag this fall. The couple had a microfiber blanket on their registry list at Bed Bath and Beyond and when I got to the checkout and saw the huge reusable bags they have, I decided to get that instead of a regular paper gift bag. That way they had two gifties.Marilyn

  3. I had the exact same reaction to Anne Mahlum–complete admiration for the organization she started. I wish I could give Back On My Feet a big donation but since I can’t I’m going to buy one of their tshirts. All sales go directly back into the program!

  4. Marilyn, I might just be inspired to of get a sewing machine after years of being without one. I could use the bag project to teach the granddaughters how to sew. The 6-year-old has been asking–says she wants to be a dress designer. (Have no idea where that came from!) But you can get a simple machine for less than $100, and the bagf gift wrap idea is genius!

  5. Mary-Francis, I’m with you on the t-shirt. (I have a collection!)

  6. Debra Dixon says:

    Good news? I got a great refund from my insurance company the day before one of the heating units in the house gasped and quit. Then, the repair didn’t eat up the whole “free-money” refund check.I loved the “Back On Your Feet” hero girl. Thought that was so simple and proof yet again, that one person doing one small thing can make change.And I like the gift bags. Very good idea because they LAST from year to year. I’m going to make some!

  7. Hey, Deb, I got good news at the dentist yesterday! I went in expecting a crown. I could feel with my tongue what I thought was a crack the whole length of an eye tooth. It turned out to be a rough spot in a filling I didn’t realize was there. Poor guy–I told him I loved him and that this was the best time I’d ever had with a dentist. He said, “Let’s do it again sometime.” And I said, “It sure was good for me.” Elation of such magnitude brings out my inner naughty girl.

  8. Kylie says:

    I don’t have any particular good news to share (other than the continued good health of my family, which is not to be discounted.) But I do have a little tidbit to share that will help reduce spam and unwanted catalogs: when you are online shopping, search for the small print with a box next to it inviting the site to continue to email you with their offers. Left checked, they often follow up with unwanted catalogs. I always make sure that box gets unchecked.And just a reminder that food banks are overloaded at this time of year, and it’s worse this year than ever. A donation there helps people in your immediate city, which I always like when I’m choosing holiday giving.

  9. Kylie, thanks for mentioning the food pantries. I really appreciate the pre-packed bags you can pick up just before you hit the cash register at the grocery store. They’re packed with the most commonly needed stuff, and usually come in $5 and $10 sizes. I try to do one each time I shop.

  10. Don’t forget the Red Kettle. I remember reading that the Salvation Army is way up there on the list of charities that make the best use of your donation. I start the season with a promise to myself not to walk past a red kettle without dropping something in. The grandkids love to do the dropping.

  11. Debra Dixon says:

    Kathleen– I know! There is something so immensely satisfying in having what you fear turn out to be almost nothing. It’s like…”Only $100? Yay!!!”

  12. Helen Brenna says:

    Well, I’m sending in my 3rd out of 4 books I was contracted for into my agent today. That’s feeling like pretty good news to me!Happy Friday Everyone!

  13. Jane says:

    I didn’t catch CNN heroes, but I first head of Anne Mahlum when she was named Person of the Week on ABC News. It was very inspirational.

  14. flchen1 says:

    Thanks for the good news, Kathleen! I hadn’t heard about the Green Bag Lady or Back on My Feet–very cool! I love getting the newsletters from this local organization (Today’s Youth Matter) that puts together camps for underprivileged kids so that they get a chance to spend some time in the great outdoors and getting the chance to experience things they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to–it’s exciting to hear stories of how these short weeks can be the stepping stone to a changed life and how the commitment of the volunteers makes such a difference in the long run!

  15. ddurance says:

    Hmmm….good news, let me think. Well my Dad finished his rounds of radiation for his prostate cancer, so we’re pretty excited about that.Deidre

  16. lunaticcafe says:

    Thank you for sharing the good and inspiring news- we all need more of that. As for any news that I may have heard: 1. I work at a school as a monitor and I volunteer in the 1st grade class doing reading. Last Friday a boy that at the beginning of the year could not read the word “the” read me an entire story!!! I almost cried because I was so proud of him! I cannot even describe how rewarding it is to be a part of these kids’ lives. They are amazing. and… 2. Today is my tenth anniversary!ddurance- I’m excited for you and your family. I lost my dad last year to cancer so I am familiar with how scary these times can be. Good luck to your dad and I will say an extra prayer for a speedy recovery.

  17. catslady says:

    Let’s see – thinking positively, my daughter who is away at college just called to say she was driving and slid on the ice – the truck she hit and her car are damaged but the good news is that no one was hurt.

  18. About Me says:

    Good News: I haven’t caught my son’s cold.But as always seems to happen, the bad news struck today when my laptop ‘brain fried’ today. Yup, the laptop is no more.Good news: I’d backed it up this morning.

  19. lunaticcafe–I do “Book Nookk” in my granddaughter’s 1st grade class and love it! It amazes me how early these children are reading. I was a “See Spot run” kid. For Book Nook I try to come up with props and/or something interactive to go with the book I’m reading. Did “Stranger In the Woods” this week, complete with stuffed snowman and fawn, lots of finger puppets, and trees on sticks. So we had a whole forest filled with critters. Nana was a big hit!

  20. lunaticcafe says:

    In our 1st grade class the week was all about Thundercake- it’s a book that has a recipe in the back. The recipe is strange and has berries and tomatoes… I think. we are making it next week in the cafeteria kitchen as part of our heritage/traditions celebration. I’ll let you know how that tastes because frankly, I am a little afraid of this Thundercake.On the good news front: The community here in Tucson got together today and restocked the Marana foodbank which had been robbed earlier in the week. See, people do know the real meaning of being human- I was beginning to think that everybody forgot what is really important in the world.

  21. robynl says:

    Good news is that our youngest sister and family may becoming home for Christmas on the 26th if the weather permits as they have a 5 hr. drive.I love that you are giving a handkerchief from your collection; very nice and kind of you.

  22. Kammie says:

    I haven’t had much good news lately. My grandpa passed away and my mom was diagnosed with cancer so I have to find the good news in the small things. That’s knowing my grandpa is now with my grandma and my mom has a good chance of being okay due to all the research done and new treatments that exist today.

  23. Dina says:

    My little grandson turned 3 Thursday!!

  24. Kammie, my thoughts and prayers go with you and your family. My nephew just lost his battle with cancer–more like a brother to my husband, only a few years younger and Best Man at our wedding–and it hurts. But with all the advances being made in cancer treatment, we have so much more hope than we did 20 years ago when we lost Mama to cancer, that cruel thief. Keep the faith, dear lady.

  25. Happy day, Grandma Dina! Mine are 4, 5, and 6. Aren’t they just the best blessing ever!

  26. ddurance, my prayers for your dad. That mean C word again. ‘Tis the Season for hope, and I see plenty of it here. Robynl, who will have family home for the holidays–what joy! I hope they have good weather and safe travel.

  27. lunaticcafe says:

    Kammie- My thoughts are with you and your family. I know how difficult it is to find god news but it’s also important to look to the little things. Good news from Tucson: My son is playing in the semi final for his soccer league. Flyboy is the coach and this group of boys has worked very hard to get this far. Go Blue Bandits!

  28. FIONA says:

    Oh, Kammie, I’m so sorry for the loss of you grandfather and you mom’s illness. The holidays can magnify grief. Take care of yourself, and those around you. Hugs are one of the best gifts you can give each other. Kathleen, I was at the Minnesota Green Expo this year, and there was a group who were making cloth bags from old clothes and giving them away. A group just had their sewing machines set up, and you picked out the fabric. what a great use for old jeans and other sturdy fabric, and some were very colorful.You can wrap gifts in them, but if you’re not the sewing type, wrap a gift in something reusable–tie up a wine bottle in a new dish cloth, put small gifts for your kids in new mittens or socks, take a gift of baked treats in a tin, and leave it as part of the gift.As for good news, we need a new furnace, so we are putting in a geothermal heat pump. It’s green and the timing was right for us.

  29. Deborah says:

    Hi Kathleen! Some good news — a friend wrote me to say that they have an elderly neighbor who lives alone and has no one. My friend and her husband got the lady a tree, put it up for her and decorated it. They also invited her to spend Christmas day with them so she wouldn’t have to spend the holiday alone.

  30. lunaticcafe says:

    Flyboy mentioned to me that if you want good news and lots of earth friendly ideas to check out NPR. He has been hearing lots of cool stuff on the radio and he has the website bookmarked.I love the earth friendly bags and other environmental info. My m-i-l just sent this cute fabric candy bowl she made using scraps. I only wish I was that crafty.

  31. Margie says:

    Good news is I’ll be seeing some old friends for the holidays that I haven’t seen in years.

  32. Virginia says:

    My good news is I only have one more Christmas gift to buy and wrap. Everything else it done. Woo Hoo!!!!

  33. Fiona, I love your ideas for useful wrapping. Socks are great. One year I put a pr of socks in Clyde’s stocking, and he said–to the kids’ delight00″My stocking hatched babies!” So began a tradition.A friend just gave me the neatest pr of mittens she made from old sweaters. They’re lined with flannel. So comfy!Luna, I’m an NPR fan, too!And I love the story of the couple who gave the elderly lady a Christmas tree and decorated it for her. That belongs in a Christmas novella…

  34. Vicky says:

    Today, I went book shopping and found a lot of great reads! So, that’s good news! As for news that was passed along to me, I haven’t a whole lot of that today.

  35. Caffey says:

    I lost my mom before Christmas, 8 years ago, and on the first Christmas a friend of mine was talking to me because I hadn’t put up my tree yet. So while standing at her tree, we talked about angels and how I knew she’s watching over me. She then gave me an angel ornament to put on my tree. I went home and put the tree up with my teens and each year we add a new angel ornament to the tree! Its beautiful! Too since I have a small one up (cats did a number on my big artificial tree two years ago, LOL) the small one looks so beautiful with the angels and other ornaments that others have made for me. I know the contest is over but a beautiful post I still wanted to post on. I had the joy of reading a couple of your books Kathryn. Have a wonderful Christmas and Holidays.Cathietbranxiety (at) yahoo (dot) com

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