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Archive for December, 2012

“Please stand for 26 seconds of Silent Meditation” the Principal’s request sounded over the PA system at 9:30am on Friday, December 21.

Students and teachers stood up in their classrooms; the clerical staff quietly rose from their desks. Support staff en route in the hallways on an errand, stopped in the hallway.  Building maintenance workers put down the wrench they were using to address a plumbing issue. The kitchen staff took their hands from the day’s meal preparation, and turned off the radio.

For 26 seconds, we stood, 1200 of us at a local Junior High School, to honor the memory of the children and staff who were slain the week before at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The deaths of these Holy Innocents did not make sense to anyone. Deaths of children, and our colleagues, were difficult to deal with. Hard questions were asked: Where was God when this happened? Where is He now?

During these 26 seconds, the entire building was quiet. 1200 people in Silent Meditation. The Quiet Voice of God can be heard: I was there with them. I am with their families. I am here now and I will always be with you.

A sense of peace… He is with us always.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord…Amen. From the Collect for the Holy Innocents, Book of Common Prayer

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

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Dottie took the handful of coins and brought them over to containers on the shelf behind the sink in her kitchen. She reached for a ceramic jar, removed the lid, and then dropped the quarters in. The dimes and nickels went into a second jar next to it.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I had to ask, “Do you separate them to make it easier to count out later?”

“No, they’re for the Christmas Jar. Didn’t I ever tell you that story?”

 Realizing that no, she hadn’t, she shared a fascinating story of hope.

 “A few years ago, my husband was suffering from a long illness. For five years there was no income. We had gone through all our savings… I had sold most of my jewelry. The housing market was terrible….our vacation home wasn’t selling and my adult kids were helping to pay two mortgages. Then he died. The bills kept coming in.

“I was in a bad way, financially and emotionally.

“It was to be my first Christmas without him. My oldest daughter had flown me down to her home in Virginia to be with her and her family for the week before the holiday. When I returned home, another daughter picked me up from the airport. The plane had been delayed due to a terrible snowstorm. I was exhausted. When we got to my house, I had to walk through deep snow to get to the front door.

“Finally getting to the top of the stairs, I opened the storm door and a bag fell over. My first reaction was What now?

 Christmas Jar1“I brought the heavy bag into the house. Inside was a book and a mason jar filled with coins and a few folded paper bills. I was stunned.

“When I later counted the money, there was just over $100 in it! I no longer felt hopeless, and I was deeply touched that someone would do this for me.

 “The giver was anonymous, and I still don’t know who gave the jar to me.

“After I received the jar, things turned around. The vacation house sold. I was able to pay my bills and stay in the house we had owned for 50 years.

 “I never used the money from the Christmas Jar. The jar is still upstairs. It gave me hope at a time when I was at my lowest. Now every year I save money to put into a jar that I give to someone else, so they can have that same feeling of hope, and know that they are not alone. But, it’s important that the person doesn’t know who gave them the jar, it has to be anonymous.”

 After she shared her story, Dottie sent me upstairs to get the jar and the book. The jar was heavy, filled with coins, topped with a shiny silver bow. She had added masking tape which proudly stated “My Christmas Jar”. The book, Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright, explained the background of the jar.

On the inside cover of the book she had inscribed her name, followed by Left at my door 12/21/09. I will always be grateful to my unknown donor.

 “The Christmas Jar was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

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Two gallons of gas left in the tank. It takes three to go round trip to visit Mom at the hospital, recovering from what would hopefully be her last surgery. Hurricane Sandy had shut down the gas supply; there was none to be had near home, the hospital, or along the way. Frustration was building.

Prior to the hurricane, I had filled the tank. After the storm, I had made trips to see Mom, none of us thinking the gas crisis would last as long as it had. On my last visit, I gave Mom a Heads Up that my next trip depended on if I could get fuel. She understood. My Dad and sister live closer to the hospital, Mom would have visitors. But still…the surgery was scary, Mom had a plate put into her skull, and I needed to see her.

At church on Sunday, Karen heard of my predicament. She offered me 5 gallons of gasoline. She explained power was back on to her home, so she didn’t need the gas she had bought for her generator. She graciously offered the gas to me. I was deeply touched.

Gas CanCarefully watching the needle on the gas gauge, I followed Karen home. Her husband Bill lifted the 5 gallon gas container and poured the precious liquid into my car’s tank.

They wouldn’t take any payment, only asked me to say “Hi” to my mother for them when I saw her. They had never even met my Mom.

I drove to the hospital. “Hi, Mom!”

Mom beamed in reply and gave me a big smile.

What a blessing the gift of gasoline was.

Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio

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