Well, two people’s lives were changed forever after the winning numbers were drawn in the Mega Ball Lottery on Tuesday night. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to possibly be catapulted from living paycheck to paycheck, as many of us do, to having 173 million dollars in your checking account. Whew. It must be absolutely mind-blowing, definitely life altering. Certainly I will never experience such a windfall. Number one, as my other half frequently points out, I would have to first purchase a ticket. With the odds of winning less than death by vending machine, I find it difficult to hand the man behind the counter at the 7-11 a twenty with any conviction you’ll see me holding a big check and grinning at the lottery payoff the following week.
This holiday season, our plates heaped with the usual angst and heartache the media dishes out, has also unearthed some lovely stories of kindness and generosity of human spirit. Perhaps in the midst of all the last minute shopping, angry drivers, endless lines, drug busts, and what seems to be a barrage of senseless shootings, there remains a light that shining brightly this time of year reminding us we are all on this world together. No matter what religion, nationality, age, or financial status we are all subject to the same human foibles and equipped with equal fragility of body and mind. From the man living in a cardboard tent to one living in a mansion overlooking the ocean, at one time or another we all need a hand extended in love and friendship. Lovely stories are being shared on the airways. In New York, an anonymous tipper bestowing out of proportion gratuities on unsuspecting servers. Two policemen providing a tree and presents for a single mother having nothing for her children for Christmas. Orlando, the faithful guide dog whose barking alerted bystanders at a subway station his blind master had fallen onto the tracks, lying next to the man as the train passed over them likely saving his life. Doubly sweet, following the incident an anonymous donor made it possible for Orlando to be taken care of the for rest of his doggie years during his retirement. There was also the shoe shine man at a children’s hospital who has donated over $200,000 in tips to the children over the years, one-third of his income for a lifetime of service.
It seems when you think the cup is empty when it comes to human kindness, it replenishes itself. I worked at the food ministry Wednesday. The line formed outside early, and there were a lot of them. Strangers gathered forming an oddly united group as they shared a purpose and a circumstance which is often the glue binding people together. Children buzzed around the open pink box of free donuts in the lobby like bees about a magnolia bush. It is the most difficult, for me, to see their sweet faces and know enjoying a day old confection with chocolate sprinkles might well be the highlight of their day.
In my lifetime I have had an angel or two, maybe more. As a young widow there were some lean holiday seasons made far better by a touch of kindness. My children remember one year in particular. Ten days remained closed on their advent calendar and no tree blinked brightly in the family room. I worked full-time, but the old Pinto needed new brakes and with after school care for my two elementary schoolers plus the miscellaneous bottomless pit of living expenses, there wasn’t much left for anything beyond food and basic needs. Sitting on the side of the bed I wondered what to do with all the boxed ornaments waiting to adorn a lovely fir or spruce sitting in the living room. How was I to explain to my excited little ones Santa had taken a holiday and mislaid the directions to our chimney this year?
Picking them up after work I fielded questions about the tree and focused on visiting Santa at the mall. With a heavy heart I explained we would visit Santa on Saturday, but the tree would have to wait a day or two. We pulled into the garage at the back of our condominium attached to the main building by a shared patio. The condo itself was a bit of a gift from an angel. It was two stories, two bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs, and a half bath, living room, and large kitchen on the first level. After looking at so many others either in bad neighborhoods or in disrepair, in comparison I found this condo palatial with freshly painted walls, new curtains, and carpets. A bank of windows invited the sun in in the living room and the kitchen was equipped with new appliances and very clean and neat. A bit above my budget, the wife of the owner lowered the rent accordingly to make it possible for us to move in. Although a grandmother then, at one time she had raised three children on her own and understood the difficulties and joys involved in such an endeavor. Often I would come home to find flowers on my doorstep or a freshly baked batch of cookies with her signature on the card attached.
This night we came in through the patio door. It was cold, so I switched on the heat and gathered coats to hang them on the hooks in the hall. Over my shoulder I asked my daughter to retrieve the mail from the box directly outside the front door. “Mommy”, came the squeals. Standing behind my little girl at the door with my son peering from behind one knee, we stared agape at the huge symmetrical tree mounted on a wooden stand leaning against our stoop. Curious eyes looked up at me, but I had no answers.
Finding the perfect spot we placed the tree in the corner by the window, to be admired by passersby. Boxes of tinsel and lights had been left with a note written in my father-in-law’s handwriting. “Hope your Christmas is a special one – Santa”. It was.
I was very busy yesterday wrapping and getting ready for guests. This was the perfect dinner, not much fuss and yummy.
See you after the holiday! Best to you and yours.
Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Candied Sweet Potatoes and Apple Cranberry Stuffing
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Thick pork chops
2 Tbsp. flour
Salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced thin
1 box Stove-Top Pork Stuffing Mix (Prepared as below)
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and large cubed
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/8 cup lite maple syrup
1/4 cup apple juice
2 Tbsp. butter
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Stove Top Pork Stuffing Mix (prepared as on the box)
Melt butter over med. heat in skillet. Add onion and celery and cook 5 mins. or until vegetables are tender.
Cook stuffing mix according to package directions. Add cooked vegetables and cranberries just as you remove from heat. Mix well and cover for 5 mins. Fluff with fork.
Slice onion and place on bottom of sprayed 6 quart crockpot. Heat oil in med. skillet. Sprinkle chops on both sides with flour and salt and pepper. Brown on both sides.
Cover onions with prepared stuffing. Top with sliced apple, then chops. Place sweet potatoes around chops.
Mix together melted butter, maple syrup, and apple juice. Pour over sweet potatoes. Cook on low for 6 hours.