Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Spirit: The New Avatars

You may have noticed my social media profiles have a new look. I decided to be festive this year and give a little nod to my namesake (or, at least that's what I tell everyone. My mom swears there's no specific reason she named me Mandi other than, "I just liked that name.").


Here's the (fake) story behind my name:

Christmas just isn't really happening until I watch this film. Which is why it's currently NOT Christmas season. It will be after this weekend. Mark your calendars.

*Sigh* Bing Crosby. I was SO born in the wrong decade...

And, yes, I have 3 versions of this film's soundtrack.

And, yes, when I get married this song will be playing at some point.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Coolest Thing Happened to Me Last Night

Last night I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and it wasn’t until I was in my car that I remembered an email I forgot to send at work that needed to get out ASAP. I hadn’t yet made or eaten dinner, so shelving my recipe until tomorrow I debated on where I could go for some food that also had free WiFi available (I don’t have Internet access at home).

Usually Alterra is my go-to, but the one near my house has very little seating and even less parking space. Instead I decided to try the local McDonald’s. My friend’s dad owns it, and, while I try not to eat fast food too often, I love stopping at this location because the workers are always cheerful, fast, and generally awesome.

Plus, I can just say “I visited Elysse’s dad,” instead of, “I had dinner at McDonald’s.”

To be quick…and cheap…I ordered a happy meal and sat down with my laptop.

Sidenote: free WiFi means nothing to me if your business doesn’t also have outlets. My dinosaur of a laptop needs to be plugged in at all times.

I finished my business online while I munched on my fries and chicken nuggets. I always check the bag for stray fries, but tonight I found something different.

Now, I don’t want to get any workers in trouble, and, because I know Elysse’s dad is a pretty cool guy I know he won’t mind me saying this, but I found an extra package of apple dippers in my happy meal. Apples that I didn’t order.

Bonus, right?

For some reason, I had this weird thought, “I wish there was someone I could give these to.”

On my usual commute I pass a particular intersection on my way home where there’s always someone asking for money from people stopped at the light. This is what came to mind, but this intersection was now out of my way and I wouldn’t be passing it when I ventured the rest of the way home.

So I figured I’d just save the apples for a late-night snack, I packed up my laptop, and I headed out to my car.

I was getting into my car before I heard, “Excuse me, ma’am?”

Ugh. I hate being called ma’am.

I looked to find where the inquiry had come from and saw a woman standing near the bus stop not 10 feet from where I was parked.

“I’m not asking for any money,” she said, “but I just came from the church down the street and they had to turn me away for their meal program.” “I’m not asking for money, but would you mind buying me a dollar sandwich?” she asked.

I had just used the last of my cash to pay for my happy meal, but now understood why, by divine design, I had been given some extra apples. I gladly handed them over to her and she tucked them away in her pocket.

I truly, truly wish I could’ve given her more. It wasn’t until I was home that it dawned on me I could’ve given her some of my groceries too. Because she pocketed the food I can only imagine she’s in need of something more substantial to share with a family. That could just be my overactive imagination, but I hope I didn’t just let an opportunity to feed a mom and her children pass me by.

The entire incident, however, made me realize just how important it is to listen. Take notice of what’s going on around you. When a stranger asks you for help it’s far too easy to be cynical in assuming their motivations.

I wish I was more courageous to stop and help the motorist on the side of the road. I wish I was less cynical when someone asks me for spare change. But every day there are opportunities to give and make someone’s life a little bit easier. You just have to listen.

As a Christian I believe these opportunities are heaven sent. Hebrews 13:2 states “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” There have been a few of these instances in my life and I've come to believe that the more you listen the more God speaks.

Giving is relative. Someone will always have more than you, but then someone also will always have less than you. It’s within your power to ignore the former and, instead, serve the latter.

Your Christmas Challenge:
All this being said, I’d like to give you a challenge.

Every Christmas season, once the Salvation Army kettles come out, I make it my mission to drop a quarter in every kettle I see when I’m shopping and bustling about town. Kettles with a bell ringer get 50 cents and kettles where the bell ringer is awesomely singing Christmas Carols (Pick ‘N Save on State St. in Wauwatosa) get bumped up to a dollar.

I’ve done this now for about 5 years. I have no idea how much I end up giving each year, but I hardly miss it.

Please join me in this campaign – give whatever you can afford – a penny per kettle, dollar per kettle, etc. Every. Day. YOU can make a difference.