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Thursday, December 11

Twelve Days of Christmas (John Denver & Muppets)

How fortuitous, that less than a week after writing posts about not feeling the Christmas spirit and paying it forward in kindness, I should receive a book in the mail to review that was about these very things!
I simply adored The Thirteenth Gift, by Joanne Smith.  A self-professed bibliophile, it takes a lot to make me say that I adore the story, but this captured me from page one....I wanted to stay up all night long and see what happened!


After the unexpected death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith had no idea how she would keep herself together and be strong for her three children--especially with the holiday season approaching. But 12 days before Christmas, presents begin appearing on her doorstep with notes from their "True Friends." As the Smiths came together to solve the mystery of who the gifts were from, they began to thaw out from their grief and come together again as a family. This true story about the power of random acts of kindness will warm the heart, a beautiful reminder of the miracles of Christmas and the gift of family during the holiday season.
In the retelling of the family's story, there is a reminder that this is something we all can do.  Grief remains long after the funeral, and families struggle.  Life feels like it may never be the same.  Are there little things we can do to reach out to others and give hope?  

The thing about the gifts is that they weren't expensive.  They were just reminders that the family wasn't alone...the daily gifts helped the family survive their very first Christmas after the loss of their father.  The gifts even helped them to fumble through a new set of memories and learn to breathe again, as a family unit.

Alas, as I read and read and got to gift number 8, and found myself trying to connect the simple surprise gifts with the poem/song about the 12 days of Christmas, I found myself with much more empathy for the author. Loved reading of her relatives, co- workers, friends who shared their concerns with her, and even smiled when I read how she drove over the tree stand to take out some of her pain. The description of the tree they chose reminded me of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree in so many ways...

Consider paying it forward to someone near you. They need not be someone who has lost a spouse, but it could be someone who has a family member who is seriously ill, or someone who is out of work. Even an elderly person who is alone and could use a bit of joy in their life during the holiday season. I even suggest reading a chapter aloud as a family starting in December and then talk about the chapter and lessons learned.

The book is subtitled "a true story of a Christmas miracle", but the focus of the story is clearly on the impact that human beings can make by being kind to one another, not on any sort of miracle in the religious sense. This is a nice heartwarming story of making a difference in other people's lives, and it can be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

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