My grandmother, Marion Thuma Snyder Johnston, told me this story many years ago and said that she wanted to write it someday. She passed away peacefully on March 30, 2017. She didn’t get a chance to put it into writing, so I’m going to make sure that her story is shared with the world.
When Grandmom was a young girl, her mother told her they were going to deliver some Christmas gifts to poor children in Baltimore, where they lived a modest, but comfortable, life. She adamantly protested, but my great-grandmother dragged her out of the house with bags of toys people had donated to their church, destined for boys and girls who weren’t sure if they were going to eat that night. She huffed and puffed all the way there, asking her mother, “What about me? What about my presents?” all the way up to the doorstep of the crumbling East Baltimore rowhome where an embarrassed woman in shabby clothes opened the door. My grandmother peeked past her and saw a gathering of “moppet-headed” children, huddled together to keep warm. Their clothes didn’t fit, their faces were dirty, and their eyes were sad and old. As my great-grandmother chatted with the mother, as though she were her next-door neighbor, my grandmother stood there in awe, trying not to cry. “We have some presents for the children,” my great-grandmother said. She and my grandmother handed out the packages and watched as the children opened each toy. Joy overcame the room. When my great-grandmother and grandmother left for their modest, but comfortable, home, Grandmom had a new perspective on the life she had and on the life she was called to lead. From that moment forward, gratitude and charity shaped her attitudes and her actions.
Like most grandmothers, Grandmom spoiled her grandkids with time, money, and love. She showed up to piano recitals, First Communions, and St. Patrick’s Day parties. She bought us entire wardrobes of the most fashionable clothes for Christmas and gave us money to spend freely for our birthdays (even into adulthood). I’ll always cherish our phone conversations and the greeting cards she sent.
My grandmother also offered her generosity to the Church of the Epiphany in Raspeburg. She helped keep the church beautiful and volunteered for many of the church’s charity groups. I remember delivering Meals on Wheels with her and my grandfather. Those experiences were like the one she had with her mother. Every delivery was made with love as though she were serving a dinner she prepared to her own family members.
My favorite gift my grandmother gave me is my mom, who exemplifies those ideals of gratitude and charity. Like her mother, my mom gives and gives and gives. Sometimes I look at myself and think, “How could I be more like my mother and my grandmother? How could I be more thankful for the many things I have? How could I give more of my time, my money, myself?” And then I remember the most important gift they both gave me, faith in Jesus Christ. If I put Him and His people before me as they have, I, too, will live a life of gratitude and charity.
March 31, 2017 08:34
By Robyn Barberry
What is the one thing that every person in the world needs every day? Water. (5-13 gallons of it per day, to be exact.) In the United States, we are blessed to have access to an abundance of clean water for brushing our teeth, washing our clothes, our dishes, our bodies, cooking, and, of course, drinking. But over a billion people in developing countries, such as sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to the very think that keeps us clean, healthy, and alive.
At St. Joan of Arc School, we always strive to care for others and the environment. So, when we were asked to participate in The Water Challenge, through The Water Project, Inc., all of us joined the cause. Participants are asked to drink nothing but water in a reusable bottle for two weeks and document the milk, juice, soda, and coffee they eliminate. At the end of two weeks, each person donates the money they saved by choosing water over other drinks. The goal is for each person to raise $23. A few months after the money is returned to The Water Project, Inc., donors will receive a report of where their money went, including GPS coordinates! It turns their small sacrifice into something big and important.
The idea is similar to the kind of fasting we do in Lent. The Water Challenge offers us the chance to think about those who have less than we do and to appreciate something we often take advantage. It also enables us to avoid the waste associated with disposable water bottles. Finally, it encourages us to take better care of our bodies by avoiding caffeinated and sugary drinks.
It was a rough start for many of the students, including my second-grader Collin. They were upset that they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the juices they ordered for hot lunch or the lemonade at our Chik-fil-a fundraiser night. It was a big change for little kids, but when teachers like myself rose up to the challenge, our involvement and the reminder wristbands they wore inspired the students to stay on board.
Now the students are excited about their small sacrifice to make the world a better place. Collin even got my tea-drinking parents involved. They send us photo updates to let us know that they’re drinking their H2O! (Now that we've got them hooked, we need to convert them to reusable water bottles!)
It’s not too late for you or your organization to participate in The Water Challenge
. If you’re not a fan of tap water, you can buy a filter for your sink or a pitcher for your refrigerator. Even my gym has an awesome water fountain filter! An excellent selection of reusable water bottles can be found in many stores and on Amazon.com. Nalgene, Camelback, and Tervis make excellent leak-proof bottles and cups in a variety of sizes. I’m a big fan of the coated aluminum canteens like the 32 oz. mint green one I have by Simple Modern. My water stays cold for 24 hours!
Since we started The Water Project I have more energy and am more aware of my water usage in other settings. I’ve been thinking about those who suffer because of their limited access to potable water. I hope that the money we donate can help make their lives better. Above all, I thank God for providing my family with a safe, clean source of the one thing we need most.
January 14, 2017 12:40
By Robyn Barberry
After Mass this morning, Collin said, "Mom, I'm really scared of 2017. 2016 was such a good year and I'm not ready to see it end."
I stopped and thought about what he said. In many ways he was right. 2016 was a great year. God blessed us with Teagan. We managed to stay afloat financially so that we had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We love being a part of St. Joan of Arc. And, thanks be to God, everyone we love is in good health.
I began to consider what 2017 might be like. We could suddenly lose everything if an unexpected event drained our finances. We might lose our house, go hungry and struggle to pay school tuition and other bills. There's also the uncertainty of what a new president might bring our country. Someone I love could become very sick or die. That is my worst nightmare.
I didn't know what to tell Collin because all of the sudden I was a little bit afraid of a new year. We group our life's experiences into 12 months, 365 days and label them "good" or "bad" years based on the frequency or positive or negative events. But, sometimes we need to look at each year as a kaleidoscope of events rather than a polarized passing of time. On December 31st, we should look back at everything that's happened since January 1st and think about the ways we've changed and how we got there.
"We don't know what's going to happen in 2017, but we do know that God will take care of us, no matter what happens," I said. We talked about what things we have to look forward to, like his First Communion, our summer vacation, and adventures beyond our imagination. Life will be far from perfect, even in a "good" year, but as long as we remain faithful, God will protect us -- here or in the great beyond.
December 18, 2016 10:10
By Robyn Barberry