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WritingAfterDark

Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Don't Waste Precious Life

The holiday season is quickly approaching and what better way to share my thoughts than with a blast from the past. While sorting through the many essays and articles I’ve written over the years, I stumbled across one I had written 20 years ago. Two decades may have gone by, but the sentiment is still there.

Don’t Waste Precious Life
By Joanne Markle (Kiggins) © 1985

More than $30 billion is spent on food, gifts, and decorations each year during the holiday season. That is what a commentary stated on a Pennsylvania television station. Thirty billion dollars for one day of the year! Christmas should be celebrated every day of the year. Not the commercialized Christmas most everyone has fallen into--the pattern of the Christmas tree, buying gifts that over exceed spending limits (gifts you’re not sure the other person needs, or even wants, for that matter), and eating until your stomach bursts.

Don’t get me wrong, all this is fine, if you’re extremely wealthy and could stand to gain a few pounds, but what happened to the old-fashioned Christmas spirit? Lately it seems hard to come by. What is the old-fashioned Christmas you may ask? Well, to me, and probably the eons of generations before me, it means love, peace and good health. What really makes Christmas special is that it is the time of the year that everyone remembers these few simple values of life. It’s just a shame these values cannot be sealed in the heart for renewal each and every day.

Maybe that sounds crazy from someone of my generation, but as far back as I can remember, people celebrated holidays much differently when I was a youngster.

With snow falling outside, as I cuddle up on my couch next to the warmth of my fireplace, watching the bright flames flicker shadows on my living room wall, I get a feeling of peace and it reminds me of how things used to be--chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that mushy nonsense I enjoy so much, but most people have seemed to lay aside. I think how lucky I am to be here, and how, too often, many people take advantage of the fact that tomorrow is another day, because you really never know if tomorrow will come.

The Christmas season seems to have the same effect on people, as does the crackling fire in a fireplace. It reminds them that it is a time of joy, peace, love, and giving. Unfortunately, for most people, the hypnotic effect lasts only until the hangover relents on New Year’s Day.

Many years ago, I came very close to death. After several extensive surgeries and many months in the hospital, I was told by my doctor not to hold back my feelings. At the time, I was 18. It was at that time I began writing a novel. I would write every chance I had: lunch hours, breaks and every opportunity that came about to have a pen in my hand. I had one goal in mind: To reach into the reader’s mind and soul and touch their heart in a way that may help them understand themselves and others around them. Silly you say? Maybe.

A coworker once asked me what I was writing. She laughed at me when I told her that I was writing a book.

“What could you possibly have to write about? You’re only eighteen,” she said. I handed her the first three chapters of my book and said, “I have probably had more happen to me in my eighteen years than you could ever dream of in your entire life.”
With tears running down her cheeks, she handed the handwritten pages back to me and said, “For as young as you are, you’ve sure learned a lot about life the hard way.”

To be frank with you, my life had not exactly turned for the better after that brief discussion. I had stomach cancer at eighteen and was only given six months to live. But I’m still here. I’ve gone through two bad marriages and am now disabled from a stroke and Fibromyalgia. Young you say? Yes, too young to have so many problems. I agree. I don’t dwell on my life’s problems and won’t go into the many aspects of them here. I didn’t ask for the life I’ve had. I didn’t cause the life I’ve had, but I did learn that I could change each and every day for the rest of my life.

In a way, both my own life’s experiences and my doctor’s advice years ago made me a better person. I would like to think that in the past thirty-five years, I have had a different attitude about life and because of that, I am able to see things just a little more optimistically than most people. In addition, because of that, I’ve learned to appreciate the world and the people in it for what they are and not for what they could be. I’ve found that people, for the most part, are very friendly and understanding, and would like to think that they would open their hearts any day of the year, not just on holidays.

John Wesley wrote: “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

This short, but sweet phrase is tacked safely on my bulletin board to remind me everyday that everyone in the world has a reason to be on this earth. It tells me that if I follow these simple suggestions each and every day of my life that I will be a better person, not for what I’ve accomplished, but for the good I may have done and the hearts I may have touched throughout my life. Today, I still write with that same enthusiasm and that same goal. If I can touch even one heart, then I have succeeded as a writer. That, to me, is worth more than any material gift I could ever give or receive. That, to me, in not only the spirit of Christmas, but also the spirit of life.

I can only hope that I have followed the lines carefully each day--for life is short and you never know when, where or how your tomorrow will end.

Don’t waste precious life. For those who “put off until tomorrow” because tomorrow’s another day, my advice to you is: Do it now, for tomorrow may never come. Celebrate life everyday! Extend a helping hand to a stranger in need, care for a child who has no family, visit someone in a nursing home, but do it on days other than holidays. You’ll not only feel better, but you also could be doing all the good you can for someone in more ways than you can imagine. You may be giving them a gift they have always needed...Love. And isn’t that the true meaning of life?

Make me smile. Leave a comment...


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11 Comments:

Blogger Ray Wong said...

Well said, Jo. My thoughts exactly. I think in today's commercial world, we've lost our Christmas spirit. One only has to go to the malls to witness the unnatural fenzies, like shark infested waters. I told someone, "If you want to see religion-inspired wars, go to the malls during the holidays."

Anyway, I'm glad you're still here, too. You're a treasure.

11/21/2005 12:34 PM  
Blogger September said...

What a beautiful blog. And so true. I used to work at a nursing home and saw too many grandparents forgotten during the holidays. It broke my heart. When I had children, I would occasionally pop in with them, and their smiles brightened the room.
My holiday wish - visit a shut-in...read to them, watch television, play cards or help with a puzzle. Just visit. And not just at Christmas but often.

Thanks Joanne, for reminding us again what Christmas is all about.

11/22/2005 12:58 AM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Aw, you’re too sweet, Ray. I do agree. Malls are like shark infested waters even on an ordinary day. People simply have no patience or courtesy anymore. Everyone is in a hurry: zipping into a parking spot someone else has been waiting to pull into for five minutes, bumping others in the aisles and not saying “excuse me,” dropping things from shelves and not replacing them. These are just the minor things.

11/22/2005 9:20 AM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thank you, September. I suppose I never got over my candy-striping days. For years, I picked two days a month and visited nursing homes and children’s hospitals in our area. I called the nursing homes in advance to ask how many patients were in their care. For the elderly, I made lap robes and crocheted slippers. Each month I would make my rounds, visit someone new and give him or her the gift. For the kids, I made crocheted puppets. Life is full of tears and smiles; there’s nothing like making strangers smile, no matter what their age.

11/22/2005 9:34 AM  
Blogger Mac said...

Beautiful post, Joanne. *smile* All the very best, this season, to you and yours.

11/22/2005 2:45 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

joanne- Very, very nice :)
As a health care professional I often see the devastating effects illness can have on people. However, I also see many of these individuals gain a new appreciation for life and a determination to make each day special and not take anything or anyone for granted.
Thanks for the reminder of those things in life that are most important. :)

11/28/2005 10:13 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

What a great entry, Joanne. And, having had the privilege of meeting you in person, I can just imagine you speaking the very words you write. We don't remember these things often enough. And, what's kind of frightening? Your essay is dated 1985 - how much has changed as far as what people expect from this season? Scary.

12/01/2005 9:53 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thanks, Mac. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year. *hugs*

12/01/2005 10:04 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thanks for reading, Jeff. A healthy, happy, and wonderful holiday to you and yours.

12/01/2005 10:08 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

True, Jill. Not much has changed in 20 years...at least certainly not for the better. Some people's expectations need to be evaluated. 'Tis better to give than to receive. :)

A very happy Hanukah to you and your family.

12/01/2005 10:17 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Did I spell that right, Jill?

12/03/2005 9:23 PM