The Season of Giving

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“For it is in giving that we receive.” 
 Francis of Assisi

As we count our blessings this holiday season, please remember that there are millions and millions of people – around the world – who are hungry, homeless, displaced, discouraged and lonely.

In this, the season of giving, please do what you can to help a neighbor, a stranger, a family in your community.

Donate food, clothing, blankets and toys to your local missions.  Help out at your local food bank. Share your Christmas feast with someone less fortunate.

If you dine in restaurants, give your leftovers (that you would normally take home) to the homeless man or woman huddled on the sidewalk. Don’t pass them by, averting your face.  Show them compassion.

Spread a little Hope and Kindness.

After all, this is the season of Light… is it not?

May the true meaning of the holiday season fill your hearts and homes with many blessings.  Remember to take time to slow down and enjoy the simple things. I wish you, dear readers, much happiness today and throughout the New Year.

Blessings and Warmest Wishes,

heatherfromthegrove

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
Charles Dickens

New Year’s Revelation No. 7 of 7: Love Thy Neighbor, it’s that simple

“When strangers start acting like neighbors… communities are reinvigorated.

Ralph Nader

Given the year I’ve had, I could not end my seven New Year’s Revelations without speaking (once again) about the blessing of having good neighbors and, more specifically, the importance of being a good neighbor.

“It is your business when the wall next door catches fire.”

Horace

How many of us know our neighbors?

For those who live in a large, urban environment, the transient nature of its residents make it almost impossible to really get to know who lives next door. Yet, who among you would not rush out to help if you smelled fire in an adjacent apartment or townhome?

“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.

Hubert H. Humphrey 

In suburbia, people tend to have mixed feelings about their neighbors. Some, they love… but others, they deplore. Fences are built, not to be crossed. And some neighborhoods are more community-minded than others. They fill the gap that government entities leave wide open ― the need for community programs whose sole purpose is to help its neighbors flourish and grow.  

Fences and hedges aside, whether you’re fond of your neighbor or not, surely you would run to his aid if he collapsed on his driveway? 

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Martin Luther King Jr.

In the rural and mountain communities, neighbors are essentially a Godsend. Anything can happen (and often does).  A neighbor may injure himself on his tractor or digger and, if not for the help of his neighbor, may be left there to perish in the elements.  In these communities, there is a moral code that neighbors live by. 

I’ve experienced this, firsthand.  It has completely changed the way I feel about neighborliness.  You see, I grew up in suburbia and then moved to the big city, as a young adult.  Now, I live  in an area that’s a cross between urban and suburban, but also have a place across the country… up in the mountains. And it’s the compassion and loyalty that my mountain neighbors have shown in the past eleven months that has filled me with a sense of incredulity, deep respect and profound gratefulness.  They have shaped the way I now think about neighbors and neighborliness, and the way I act… towards my neighbors, and as a neighbor.  

For this, and for so much more, I thank them.

“To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality.

John Locke

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Photo via thepicklepatch.com.

In Search of Mayberry

When I was growing up, we lived in a community where doors were kept unlocked at night and windows were left wide open (to let the brisk, cool air in).  There was never a fleet of SUVs and cars in front of the elementary and middle schools.  As children, we used to walk the few blocks (or take the school bus) to go to school. There were no predators lying in wait.  Neighbors knew their neighbors.  When a family was going through a tragedy or rough time, the neighbors – and, indeed, the entire community – got together and would rally around and offer their kindness and support. Police officers and sheriffs protected us as fiercely as family, if the need arose (although these crises happened so rarely back then).  In our neighborhood, these men in blue or brown lived among us, friends to our parents,  their children were our buddies.

Back then, the internet did not exist.  No one worried about things like identity theft or hackers.  There was less room for “he said”, “she said” scenarios.  Everyone knew where the lines in the sand were drawn.  Everything was much less complicated.

Does Mayberry exist?  Or, is it indeed a fictional place,  immortalized in a television show?

Recent events in my life have made me skeptical. And distressed.  If you read my “Neighborly Love” blog  (March 28, 2013), you will learn about the horrible burglary that occurred on our property just before Easter.  Recently, we were informed by our dear neighbors (who, sadly, are always the unfortunate bearers of bad news) that the same thieves have struck again… but, this time, they have become more sophisticated, more organized…. assuming our identity.   Our neighbors (who are community-minded, compassionate, and fiercely loyal) rallied on our behalf – once again.  Since we live at the other end of the country and couldn’t handle this crisis in person, they tried to keep the thieves from removing a vehicle from our property.  The authorities were called to the scene and our neighbors were harshly admonished for getting involved.  It appears that the authorities were believing the authenticity of the thieves’ story and fake documentation.

This would not have happened in Mayberry.

Thank goodness, there was enough “reasonable doubt” to make the authorities pause and take note.  The battle of “he said”, “she said” still continues.  I am determined to keep the Grinch from stealing Christmas.  Not another spoiled holiday.  Not again.  This has to stop.

To the thieves:  You will be caught. Maybe not today, or tomorrow. Maybe sometime next year. But you will be apprehended and brought to justice, for preying on people in our neighborhood and God knows how many other neighborhoods.

To the authorities:  We realize that today’s society has made all of us somewhat jaded.  We and our neighbors are not the bad guys.  Please leave no stone unturned.  These thieves are organized. And they are laughing at all of us, as they sell our tools, valuables, household items and vehicles.  They are preying on our weaknesses and absence.  They are smirking as they assume our identities, through falsified documents.  They are making a mockery of all of us. This ring of thieves needs to be stopped.

To our neighbors: As people of faith, we bow our heads to God, in gratitude for having neighbors such as yourselves. Your integrity, compassion and perseverance are inspiring, and humbling.  It makes me believe in the possibility of finding Mayberry.  And when we do find that small, communal town, we hope that you will move there as well.

After all, isn’t it the neighbors who make Mayberry what it is?

Christmas Blessings,

Heather

(Picture taken in 2005)

On Friendship

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Love this quote:

‘Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’

‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’

—  E.B. White (Author of Charlotte’s Web)
(Photo via chakradio.com)

heatherfromthegrove gives thanks for an abundance of tropical sea grapes…

This is one of the twenty-five or so parrots that fly into the sea grape trees in our front garden.  They are exuberant, colorful birds that squawk loudly — as they happily nibble on the grapes (their boisterous behaviour is probably a direct consequence of inebriation —  from the grape juice!).  When I look at these two beautiful trees, which form a welcoming canopy over the front of the house, and the abundance of  ripe grapes and tipsy parrots — I feel happy and grateful for these gifts of nature, gifts that can’t be bought in the Mall – or anywhere else, for that matter.

To my family and friends who know of my weakness for “the Grape,” it is no surprise that I would have a house with a yard that smells like a vineyard — crushed grapes everywhere (you can’t avoid stepping on them!).

Although we haven’t honed our wine making skills as yet, we are feeding some of the people in our neighborhood.  The trees have large branches that  flow over the front fence to the street, providing shade on the sidewalk and tasty bounty for passers-by. Often, I go out to the front gate, and give them paper bags to gather the ripened grapes.   Sharing a harvest of grapes with neighbors.  It just doesn’t get better than that.

” Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life… a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seed time and harvest, the ripe product of the year – and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God. “ ~ Ray Stannard Baker (David Grayson)