So my 29 days of giving based on Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life comes to an end. Some thoughts:
As the Monkees (circa 1966) said, I am a believer. I do believe daily giving can change your life. Whoa, big fella, let’s take it down a notch, you might be thinking. I really do. I believe active giving can get you out of your own way and make sense of your world, your purpose.
I got more than I gave. Reading to my friend Vin or saving the elliptical machine at the gym for Hannah are examples of the glow that lives in me when I give.
Rather than money, my gifts often have been a giving of myself. Something we can all do, even if we have little money. Going to visit a friend in the hospital or seeking out a friend for connection were more the norm for me than gifts that cost money.
I have to be intentional to give. There’s this private time of joy I have in bed early in the morning when I think about my upcoming day and where giving might occur.
Giving helps me build my connections and sense of community with my friends and family.
As I look back I found that being a member of church gives me many opportunities to give beyond putting money in the collection plate.
The subtext for this experiment was to have you consider taking on the 29 Days of Giving challenge in your home town. Giving can be a meaningful, seamless part of your daily life. Maybe it already is. If not, think of the 1971 Alka Seltzer catch phrase: Try it; you’ll like it.
It just may change your life.
Our son Will and his girlfriend Laurel have invited us some 600 miles south to Richmond, Virginia for Thanksgiving. In their home, they make turkey day with all the usual suspects: sweet potatoes with pecans, brussel sprouts with cranberries, stuffing, both with and without sausage, tossed salad, candied carrots, corn casserole, biscuits, and one big bird.
Then we bring the gift that, like Wonder Bread, builds strong families: a deck of Rook cards to play Mormon Bridge. This easy-to-learn game combines some strategy and a decent amount of luck so that everyone has a chance to win.
It’s a game with whoops of surprise and groans of “oh no’s” when one trumps another’s card. The game comes with a surprise ending that Hannah and I will show you when we next get together for Mormon Bridge.
At 16 months our grandson Owen motors around his apartment, climbing on tables and couches with a wide smile of joy. Lately, chucking utility balls around the living room has been his thing.
My gift is a new blue utility ball for Owen. The joy is first in the opening.
Now that the unwrapping is complete, let Owen show you what happens next. Here’s Owen………….
Heading south to Virginia from Maine for Thanksgiving, Hannah and I spend the night in south Jersey at the home of our friends, Rich and Mary. Rich is a friend from our years as students at Arizona State University.
He and I met the first week of the fall semester in 1969 at Irish Hall. Both Jersey boys, we had no idea he was from the town (Hawthorne) right next to Fair Lawn, where I grew up. After college he returned to “Joisey” and created a career based on his love and talents as a photographer. Now an accomplished wedding photographer, he makes it his mission to put the bride in the best light on her special day and to make her wedding day the best it can be. (As politically incorrect as it may be, I believe it’s all about the bride on the wedding day.)
Rich is a “having a beer” kind of guy who keeps it real. So my gift to him is an ASU shirt to remember where our friendship all began: Go Sun Devils.
I email this story to for our kids, their sweethearts, and Hannah as my gift for today.
Once upon a time there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. But gradually, the number of daily nails dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the first day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He proudly told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.
“You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.”
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving I am one of the many church members who bring canned goods for the York Food Pantry to distribute to families in need. It is easy to think that in an affluent town like York on the coast of Maine, Really, there are hungry families in this town? Oh, but there are and probably in your home town, too. We as a church acknowledge that even though we often can’t always see them, they are there.
Hungry kids are a serious, sometimes invisible problem. Locally, the End of 68 Hours of Hunger program serves kids for the approximately 68 hours that some local school children go without eating from the time school gets out on Friday afternoon until they return to school on Monday morning. End of 68 Hours now serves nearly 500 children per week in Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire.
I believe families are hungry amid our affluence though I don’t see them. I take on faith that the problem is real. Churches at their best get us to think of others and serve and support them.
Owen with his great grandmother
Dad would have been 97 today. My gift is a letter to Mom inspired by a conversation with our friend Corky.
What I learned from Corky is to infuse my conversation with Mom with references to how she and Dad influenced our life in a positive way. For example, I’ll mention in my note to Mom how Hannah and I value our time together and learned from Dad’s and her example. Hannah and I sit by a fire many evenings with a glass of wine as Mom and Dad did at Bolton Place in Fair Lawn, NJ.
Dad taught us kids tennis, a sport for a lifetime. We saw them play bridge with their friends. Now we get together with our kids and friends to play a 21st century variation of bridge: Mormon Bridge. Hannah and I took our kids cross country as my parents did with my siblings and me. Mom and Dad live on in us, and my gift is to let Mom know that – in writing, in a letter that she can read over and over again.
The Family Rothermel (brother Richard, sister Patty, Dad, Mom, and me)
For those of us over 60, November 22, 1963 was the most earth shaking day of our young lives. It was the day Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Whereas the younger generation (and older) all remember where they were when the planes attacked the World Trade Center in New York (I was getting ready to teach a class at Eastern Connecticut State University), those of us over 60 will never forget where we were on that fateful day in November fifty years ago.
I was in Dave Pooley’s tenth grade biology class at Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey when the chemistry teacher, George Steinmetz, came across the hall to tell Mr. Pooley that the president had been shot. At that moment we didn’t know if he had died. As a newspaper boy, I had to wait for the afternoon edition of the Bergen Record til nearly 530P (when the newspapers were usually ready for me at 3P) with the news of Kennedy’s death. I delivered the papers in a fog.
So on this 23rd day of my 29 Gifts I want to find something to commemorate this auspicious anniversary. What is Kennedy known for? Civil rights? Peace? Justice? And then it’s clear. I’ll donate to prevent gun violence here in Maine. Online, I find Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence. In John Kennedy’s name and in my father’s memory, my gift today is a donation to prevent gun violence in Maine.
Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire
Our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandson Owen live in Virginia. Molly and Tip are local kids, having grown up on the Seacoast (southwestern Maine and the entire 13 mile seacoast of New Hampshire). Virginia has the temperate winter climate that we Mainers can only dream of. When it snows (they’ve had four inches in the Arlington, VA/DC area in the last two years), it melts the next day. December snow in Maine rears its ugly head (okay I’m not a skier.) through March.
Dan and Hannah’s picnic table
The down side of living in Virginia is that it’s 550 miles away when big events happen. Tip’s Aunt Pat died this past week. The Virginia Family Rawding is unable to come so Hannah and I are their surrogates. Woody Allen says that 90% of life is just showing up. And showing up for calling hours in Portsmouth is what we do.
A popular woman, Aunt Pat has the line snaking out the front door of the funeral home in Portsmouth, NH even after two hours of visiting hours. It’s important that Tip, his folks, and sister know that we are forever a part of their extended family. Family shows up. We hug, we meet Aunt Pat’s family, and just remind them by our mere presence “they are not alone.”
Leeward Landing Thrift Store
In our family Hannah is the primo ballerina Christmas shopper. But this December I am stepping up to the plate for our grandson Owen. Today I am off to Leeward Landing with visions of Christmas plums for Owen dancing in my head.
Immediately I find a gift that connects me with Owen and his mother Molly. Forever, Molly and I have played Scrabble every time she’s home in York. When we play, the reward for winning the game of Scrabble is that the other one has to keep score for the next game. Let me tell you, that is quite the incentive for both of us. Though Owen is a bit young at 17 months old for this version of Scrabble , we’ll have a game to play together for years to come.
Then it’s books. How could I resist a book with his grandmother’s name in the title?
The Little Bear series by Else Holmlund Minarik were some of our favorite read-aloud books to our kids. From one generation to another.
What parent isn’t ready for some potty training?
A gift that keeps on giving.