'Tis the season to say thank you

Susan Flanagan
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It doesn't take a lot of effort to spread around some goodwill

The kids are all right

My nativity scene is a work of art. Three ceramic camels stand over a foot tall. The wise men are magnificent. Mary and Joseph actually have facial expressions of concern and pride, respectively.

My friend Mona made it for me over two years. It's the second-nicest material gift I've ever received.

The best was a pair of dirty but dry socks my husband gave me when we spent a honeymoon Christmas in Thailand during typhoon season. Christmas morning we woke up in our three-walled raised hut in an inch of cold water. The leaf roof that had been there the night before was nowhere to be found.

As we got ready for our day of jungle trekking, I started to slip into my frigid soaking socks. That's when my new husband handed over his only pair of dry socks and I knew we would last a long, long time.

Anyway, back to the nativity. Last year, Baby Jesus was only in the manger about seven hours when he, along with his entourage, were obliterated by a 42-inch flat screen TV.

Needless to say, I was unimpressed and the man who had so lovingly given me his dirty socks two decades before was no longer in my good books.

The TV quickly moved to the floor while Baby Jesus resumed his place of honour on the mantel.

This year, while only daughter and sock-giving husband decided where to put the Charlie Brown Christmas tree we picked out of the woods, I heard my husband suggest they move the TV to the mantel. But I know him - he was just checking to make sure my hearing is still sharp.

It's a cliché to say that people often forget the real meaning of Christmas, and I promised if I started writing clichés then it was time to give up writing.

Instead, I'll tell you how I try to remember the true spirit of the season.

This week, I will reflect on the service I have been provided in 2011. I will then choose three or four individuals or businesses that stand out for their exceptional service. Then I take pen to paper, or finger to keyboard and I write a letter thanking those people for taking the time to care.

It doesn't take long. If I type the letters, I make sure I don't email them. I print, sign and snail mail. Otherwise, I hand-deliver. That way, someone has a concrete reminder that their good work means something to someone and was appreciated enough that the person sent them a letter.

The first people I'm going to write in 2011 are Dave Sullivan and Sheila Miller, who ran in Virginia Waters against Kathy Dunderdale in October's provincial election. It takes a lot of guts to offer yourself up in an election if you think you're going to win. I think it takes even more guts to put yourself out there knowing you probably only have as many chances of getting lucky as an Orangeman at a Knights of Columbus dance.

So hats off to Dave and Sheila. They're my heroes of 2011.

My second community hero is Wade at Coles bookstore in the mall, who was so efficient and friendly finding the three books I wanted, I floated out of the mall and didn't even feel the stress of the crowd. Nor the buzz of those funny mall lights. Not even the traffic on the way home.

It was the satisfaction I feel when I leave Afterwards book store on Duckworth Street but this time with new books instead of gently used ones. One book I purchased was on sale for 75 per cent off. Wade was just as excited as I was.

When I go to that used bookstore in the sky, I hope Wade is there to wait on me.

The next person I'm going to write is Rose Mullett at Tony the Tailor's who altered the dress I wore to my husband's work Christmas party. It took all of five minutes in Tony's for Rose to pin the dress where she had to make about five tucks and fix the zipper. Then five days and only $33 later, it took another five minutes to try it on and make sure it fit properly. It was every flat-chested girl's dream. Rose's father, Tony, would be proud of her.

Finally, I'd like to publically thank all the staff at Escasoni who cared for my father until his death in October. And not just them, but all the staff of nursing homes everywhere who perform thankless duties for which stressed families don't always show their gratitude.

I would often arrive to find Dad and a staff member sitting or walking hand-in-hand on the dementia ward. When Dad's time came to say goodbye to us all, Tom, one of the staff members, wrote one of the most beautiful condolence letters we received.

"Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him Father. Mr. Marshall was certainly a blessed man as well as a loved man. One could see the love he had for his family as they showed it to him every visit. My thoughts are with all of you during this time. And to Mrs. Marshall - 'Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.' God Bless."

To say thank you to all these special people, I will do my best to explain to my children how winning in an election is important but equally important is challenging the front-runner.

For those at Escasoni I will mummer (I won't say when, except it will be after the 26th of December and before the 6th of January) to brighten the day of residents and staff.

As for Rose at Tony's, I won't make mountains out of molehills, and even though my neighbour told me that a box of tissues costs less than getting a dress tucked, I will continue to get my dresses hemmed a little on the bosom.

And for Wade at Cole's, I will keep buying real hold-in-your-hand books so he can keep his job.

Susan Flanagan is a writer who is keeping a close eye on her mantel this Christmas. Email her at susan@48degrees.ca.

Note from Susan: Big oops. Eve, my lawyer neighbour, pointed out that the Newfoundland fees for probate are .5 per cent and not the 5 per cent that I wrote in last week's column.

Paul S writes: "Susan Flanagan is doing a great series on wills ... my issue is with the contesting of wills. What's the point of painstakingly preparing a will if it can be easily contested? ... Maybe Susan can address this point."

Organizations: Knights of Columbus

Geographic location: Thailand, Duckworth Street, Newfoundland

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