The Need to Help

Everyone is aware of the horror that visited Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT last week. I first heard about it in between mall stops while I was Christmas shopping, and at that point, being still early in the day, no one really knew just how horrific it would turn out to be. Each time I got in the car and heard the latest update, I couldn’t believe it. It was far too much for anyone to bear, and I’ve done quite a bit of crying in the last several days.
My little guy just turned 8. Seeing all those little faces, so similar to my son and all his friends, left me by turns shocked, numb, angry, and aching so badly I thought it would never end. I haven’t shed this many tears in a long time. And then I think of the parents suffering through this and I start all over again. I can and can’t put myself in their shoes. I can because I am one of them, my child is still innocent and sweet and has his whole life ahead of him, and to lose him or my daughter would destroy me. And I can’t because I’m not experiencing such a devastating and wrenching loss. I am so grateful for that, and yet at the same time, I want to be with those parents and hold them and wish I could take away their pain. I can’t. No one can, ever. There’s only one thing that would ease their despair, and it’s not something any of us can give them.
The talk of gun control has reached an unbelievable crescendo, and that’s a good thing. I’m not going to go into that here though – I agree something needs to be done, but I don’t know exactly what that is. I don’t think anyone does at this point, but guns aren’t the only issue with this situation. The gunman was a very sick individual – normal, healthy, adjusted people don’t do these sorts of things. And that is another thing I’m hearing of in the aftermath – treating and recognizing mental illness and giving (or more importantly, not cutting off) the families of those afflicted the resources they need to deal with that issue.
But that’s also not why I wanted to share my feelings. I’m grieving as most of us are. I want to do something, anything, but I feel helpless. I’ve looked over the various funds that have sprung up and determined where I can send some money. It’s not a lot, but if it can provide someone with much needed grief-counseling, or expenses, or other support to survive this, I feel I’ve done something to help. But it doesn’t do anything to ease this need to help in some greater way.
I’ve made a lot of donations this year – clothes, food, toys. Our area was hit hard by Sandy in the fall, and we had so much and were so lucky, that I gave away bags and bags of things that others needed more desperately than my family did. I felt like I’d done something really productive – I helped feed and clothe a couple of families who lost everything, and I hopefully made the holidays a little brighter for children who would not otherwise have their usual holiday cheer.
But this is different. I feel powerless and weak, even as I click that Pay button. It just doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve thought of sending condolence cards, but then I think they’re probably getting hundreds of thousands of those. Then I saw the #26ActsofKindness trending on Twitter and dug a little deeper. I read Ann Curry’s tweets, and I realized this was something I could do to honor those lost in this senseless tragedy. I let people trying to make a left go, I let two people in front of me at the post office last night because I knew I’d take much longer than they. It’s not much, but it’s something, and I will keep it up – a way to remember the angels who needlessly lost their lives.
And maybe, since there are so many people doing this, we can learn to change ourselves, even if just a little bit, to be kinder, gentler people, it may have an even bigger impact on all of us in the long run. Those little children and the heroic teachers and administrators deserve to be honored in exactly that way.

What Do You Buy for the Guy Who Wants Nothing?

Literally. My husband is THE most difficult person to buy presents for. Um, well, not quite. My mom is worse because she just buys herself whatever she wants whenever she wants. *waves* Hi Mom! 😀
Anyway, now that the holidays are upon us, it’s time for the phone calls from various family members, usually his. “What does he want?” “Does he have one of these?” “Do you think he’ll like this?”
And I never know what to say. I never know what the hell to get him myself, and I have the double pleasure of having to buy him something from the kids. I’m usually pretty easy – I always have a list of “love to have” things that I can tell people to pass along to those who ask. But my husband just refuses.
“Just get me a shirt, it’s all I want.” I just want to smack him sometimes. No one wants to buy him a shirt, not when he already has 879 of them! I try to explain there’s a big part of holiday gift-giving that focuses on the giver, and the thought they put into getting something they hope you’ll love. Asking me to tell them to just get him a shirt just kind of spoils it for me.
Even harder, is with his family, we pick names, and everyone is expected to spend a certain amount on the person whose name they picked. A shirt that will cover that amount will not be a shirt my husband wears.
Every year, I try to come up with something interesting. Something he might have fun with. Bought a tabletop casino game – blackjack, poker and craps. We like to do AC and gamble, so I thought he’d like that.

It’s in the closet. Has been for about six years now. Think we used it once.

The three teams in our house are the NY Rangers, the NY Giants, and the NY Mets. I’ve gotten jackets, calendars, mouse pads, framed prints of big moments. But you can only buy someone so much sports-related paraphernalia before it becomes just clutter. Though the 360 degree view picture of the Garden the night the Rangers won the cup in ’94 (we were there in our regular seats!) is in full view in the family room.
Tools often work, but he’s picky about what he wants and says he really needs. Again, I remind him holiday gifts are not about needing (though I’d be thrilled with a new microwave this year. Maybe a dishwasher? And we desperately need a new car), they’re about making someone happy. A shirt isn’t going to do that – not from his perspective anyway. If he was a woman and enjoyed clothes as I do, I might think he’d have a point. But I’ve seen him open shirts before, he gives it a nice perusal, says thank you with a kind. happy smile and puts it away.
I’m sorry, but when you open a Christmas gift, the reaction should be “Oh cool, this is really neat! Thank you so much! I love/wanted this!”  I try to pick gifts for people that will bring that reaction, because there’s nothing better than giving someone something they really would like but probably wouldn’t buy for themselves. When he stands in front of something and admires it, I know that’s something that he’d yell at me for spending the money on, but be thrilled I got if for him. I have had to tell him on several occasions to “STFU and just be glad I know what you want and took the time to get it for you!”
But anyway, here we are again. Here come the phone calls and the emails and my daughter cornering me to remind me we have to get Dad a “good” present. I know. I dread this about as much as I dread his birthday because it causes such stress, when all he has to do is just find me something he wants, no matter how frivolous it seems to him. Look in the catalogs, check the sale flyers and emails. Surely there’s got to be something to tickle his impractical side! No one wants to be practical with a holiday gift (though if someone wants to pick me up that microwave, I have no objections!), they want to please your inner child.
Maybe that’s the problem. He’s forgotten how to be a child. Good thing I haven’t! Not that it’s helping me much as I plan my shopping missions.