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PIcking up pine needles


After years of being annoyingly smug about my faux coconut Christmas tree thus avoiding the tedious task of picking up dried pine needles stuck in the pile of the living room carpet – well, I finally broke down.а I’ve decorated my faux tree as usual,а

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but got a real tree just for the little guy, Blake. Grandparents are such suckers!

I unpacked nearly 50 years worth of ornaments looking for small-tree-sized ones (the tree is just three feet tall) with kid appeal. I barely made a dent in the collection, but it was such fun unwrapping the little treasures, some of them so dated you just don’t see anything like them anymore. I had to keep restraining my impulse to load on as many as I could. Less is more, after all. And there’s always next year.

The little blue balls reminded me of a time that called for frugality and some imagination. I think I got the ornaments at Woolworth’s. Remember that store? Amazing what you can do with found objects like scraps of gold ribbons, little glass balls, old Christmas cards, scissors and glue.а

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I also remembered spending hours cutting out bits of felt to make angels and bears and Santas.а

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And needle pointing a snowman.

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Of course, pride of place atop the tree went to the angel that Tracy made in elementary school. I suspect he had a little help from his teacher.

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There’s something to be said for not having the option of simply going to Macy’s, deciding on a theme for your tree and picking up a full set of ornaments to match.а Who does that anyway?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the euphoria of the season when we have so much to celebrate.а We’d rather not think about the loneliness and depression so many people suffer because there’s no one to care. And the pain is even more acute at this time of year.а It’s easy to forget that, as the saying goes, “there but for the grace of God …”а

In the meantime, since we’re at a safe remove in our insulated little world connected only by our TVs, computers and devices, we can allow ourselves to gasp at the day’s serving of tragedies -- like the desperation that leads a young mother to bury her newborn baby girl under pieces of rubble, or the anguish another feels when she wraps towels around her baby boy, umbilical cord still attached, and leaves him in a church’s Nativity scene, knowing that the child will be found quickly.

On a larger scale, we’re in danger of numbing out at the onslaught of unimaginable violence and hatred playing out minute by minute in the world around us. (Forgive me if I don’t dredge up more examples here.) аIt isn’t that we’re not compassionate beings. It’s just that the non-stop sorrows and horrors are so vast in scale that we’re overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness.а

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of these people. I salve my conscience by going online to make donations to the organizations that are on the frontlines fighting the good fight. A click of the mouse frees me up to go back to my world where my biggest problem is worrying about picking up pine needles that are making a mess on my carpet.

But let’s not get too carried away by guilt. The fact that we have families and friends to cherish and the wherewithal to have both a faux and real Christmas tree carries a certain responsibility.а What we give and share in love is our way of having an impact – small as it may seem in the larger scheme of things. I hope that 50 years from now, Blake and all children like him will have treasured memories of being truly loved to sustain them when the world gets dark. And Blake? I don’t really care about those pine needles.

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Love is as simple

as picking up pine needles

wherever they fall.

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ай Maya Leland 2014