<SATURDAY, May 03, 2008Saturday, December 26, 2008
I’ve been thinking about Lifesaver’s Story Books this holiday season. Growing up, the book-like packages of differently flavored candies were a Christmas stocking staple.
Early on, I’d go straight for the Mixed Fruit rolls. During middle school, I developed a taste for the Cryst-O-Mint flavor. High school saw my fully developed Lifesaver palate opting for the Pep-O-Mint and Spear-O-Mint varieties.
There weren’t any Lifesaver Story Books in this year’s stockings, though I think they’re still available to savvy internet shoppers. These days, iTunes and Starbuck’s gift cards, music CDs and books are Beem stocking favorites.
Yet Lifesaver Story Book memories are replaying in my mind this holiday. They ground my past and focus my future.
It’s funny how we see the same things differently as life progresses. During my childhood years, we made frequent weekend pilgrimages to my grandparents’ St. Joseph, Mo. home. Each time we’d visit, I’d race from the car and up the steep stairway to the second-floor bedroom my dad and uncle shared as boys. Waiting patiently there were several shelves of their childhood books, one or two of which I knew would catch my eye for the first time, previously unnoticed but suddenly exciting to a slightly older, more mature young man.
I had the same experience over the years at my grandparents’ Independence home. Though there were books there, too, its strong attraction was tools: Every kind of manual and automatic hammer, saw, sander and drill – among many others whose names are lost on this failed journeyman – could be admired, explained and, with proper instruction, used by a young man.
This is a demanding season: It pushes us physically and stretches us mentally. In the short span of a week, we celebrate the past and pivot toward the future. It’s enough to make even the strongest of us dizzy.
That’s why I’m thankful for the chance to reflect and build on my memories of Lifesavers, books and tools. They remind me to do several things in this busy period of celebration and planning:
Take a second look. Just because you didn’t like it yesterday doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it today. Whether it’s tasting a new Lifesaver, serving on a volunteer committee or pursuing a job opportunity, revisiting those things you’ve thought about before can bring new insight and excitement.
Watch your role models. Things valued by those you respect may also be meaningful to you. Pay attention to what your friends and colleagues read, note the ways they handle difficult decisions and learn from how they treat co-workers, friends and family members. Emulating those you respect is the surest way to perpetuate the traits that cause you admire them.
Enlist new teachers. Life always presents challenges and opportunities, many of which we need help accomplishing. Whether it’s using a drill press, striving to rebalance work and life or becoming a better parent, the guidance of others can enrich and improve us in important ways.
The power of the holiday season will fade as quickly as it grew. Another year will soon begin, and with it will come a new list of opportunities and challenges.
Take a few minutes while you can, standing in the doorway between 2008 and 2009, to look back on the past and forward to the future.
A big part of fundraising is showing up and being available. I learned this lesson on a very memorable New Year’s Eve, a very long time ago.
As an eager young fundraiser working for Washburn University, I didn’t know that it was unusual still to be at work in the evening of December 31st. But, there I was.
Earlier that year, a graduate of Washburn University School of Law told me he was going to give a gift of land to his synagogue, a private K-12 school and Washburn. John Shamberg, who has since passed away, made millions of dollars for institutions all over the world, and he wanted to give a significant gift to organizations he valued. His 40 acres of land on the outskirts of Kansas City were valued at $450,000, and his intention was to give $150,000 each to three organizations.
He’d left the task to the last day of the year, but now he was ready to make it happen.