Category Archives: Stories

A $1 Here and a $1 There

Christmas Charity

A few months ago, I realized something. Many stores I was going to would ask me to donate a dollar for one charity or another.

Costco asked me to donate to Riley Hospital, Walgreens would ask for a dollar for the American Cancer Society, and now I must confess that I even enjoy a Taco Bell burrito every once in a while (apologies to Dr. Lisa ;) because it was there that I realized something about a simple dollar for charity.

After I ordered at the drive thru the attendant asked for a $1 donation to support local programs to keep High School students in school and graduating.  His spiel was very hurried and I didn’t even understand what he said. I think that’s why I took notice. Two things happened simultaneously.
Taco Bell Supporting Your Community

  1. I realized that my automatic response to the requests for charity from corporate sources had too often become: “Not today, thank you.”
  2. I also realized that I had a habit of not really listening to what my donations were being requested for.

I asked him to repeat what he said, simply curious about why they were collecting dollar donations when he didn’t end the spiel with “hospital” or “foundation”. I decided supporting teens in any community was a very great cause and said: “Ok, yes.”

The speaker sort of paused and asked “Really?”

This took me by surprise again. “Yes.” I said.

“Well, thank you very much!” he enthused.

At the window I received a coupon for a free taco and genuine gratitude for the donation. Another two realizations happened for me.

  1. The response of almost disbelief resounded with me on my way home. Perhaps I was the first person of the day to donate to the cause. Perhaps, it just didn’t happen very much at all.
  2. I wondered at the coupon for the free taco. What kind of future are we cultivating where companies are finding it necessary to create incentives for patrons to donate to the betterment of our community?

The entire situation was very thought provoking as you can see. I kept the coupon in my bible to remind me of that day always. Since then I have made a conscious effort to give charity, and even if I do this two or three times a week it is only ever amounts to $10-$15 a month.

I felt very blessed that day to simply have the dollar to give.  And I understood this could be why Acts 20:35 mentions: “… we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

It does feel good to give.

The origin of the word charity means “Christian love of one’s fellow man”.  Is it any wonder that during the Christmas season we will have many more stores asking us for our dollars for charities? The salvation army bell ringers will be at the entrance to every mall and the food drives will be soliciting donations for the many families in need of wholesome holiday meals this Christmas.

This could be the year we all decide to give a little more. Maybe we won’t wait for someone to ask us for our canned goods, but we could go a little out of our way to find a donation box.  Maybe it will be the first year we sign up to buy a Christmas present for an Angel Tree child. Or maybe we’ll remember to drop some money in a Salvation Army bucket on the next trip to the supermarket (even if it is just the pennies and nickels and dimes we’ve been meaning to clean out of our vehicle’s extra cup holder).

Charity is love, and we all know how much the world could use a little more of that all year long. May God bless you so much that you have more than plenty of extra dollars to be the blessing for others this Christmas.

Written with love by,
Amber, the girl who edits your Excell for Life newsletter (Dec 9, 2013)

CoCo’s Last “Tonight Show”

I’ll be honest, I never really watched the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. His humor was always kind of lame to me. When the Tonight Show was taken over by Conan O’Brien, I started tuning in 3 to 4 times a week. After seven months, NBC has made quite the devastating decision to return the Tonight Show back over to Jay Leno. Are they crazy!?!?! He thanked his staff who is

He used the last precious moments of his show to remind us all to lend a helping hand to Haiti.

  1. Steve Carell (of NBC”s “The Office”) came out to give him an exit interview and “shredded his employee ID”.
  2. Tom Hanks came out and brought Conan a cup of scotch ( actually diet cream soda ) and reminisced about how he was the one who originally dubbed the Conan with the nickname: “Co Co”.
  3. Neil Young came out to sing “Long May You Run” while he played guitar and harmonica.
  4. Conan then said his closing piece of inspiration to his fans. He could have used this last moment to really slam NBC for their stupidity and unfairness, or anything he wanted. However, this is what he said:
  5. “This massive outpouring of support and passion, from so many people, has been overwhelming for me. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy and outrageous creativity on the internet, the fact that people have traveled long distances to and camped out all night in the pouring rain . . . It’s pouring! . . . It’s been pouring for days! . . and they’re camping out to be in our audience. Really, you, here’s what all of you have done. You’ve made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. So to all the people watching ” he said with tear filled eyes. “I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me. I will think about it for the rest of my life, and all I ask is one thing. I am asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical, I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere.

    Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get, but if you work really hard and if you’re kind, amazing things will happen.

    I am telling you, amazing things will happen.” (The audience roars.) Conan shouts over the crowd, “I’m telling you, It’s just true.”

  6. Will Ferrell came out and jammed with Conan. Will sang and played his cowbell, and Conan played a guitar and very well. They sang If I leave here tomorrow / Would you still remember me?”

Conan said during the show that he had no regrets. I am pretty sure that Conan will be just fine. I can’t say the same for Jay Leno, in fact, I won’t be surprised to see the severe drop in viewers. Who knows anything?

Good Luck Conan! You hosted the best seven month show in the history of late night. Nice work.

On the “Late Night with Jimmie Fallon” Jimmie began his show in NBC studio 6A – Conan’s Old Studio – and sang a tribute to Conan,  “Its So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday”.  The Roots made a tribute to “team CoCo” as well.

The American Girl Doll – Made in China

Since I was a kid, I have heard wonderful things about the American Girl store in Chicago. Since my little girl came along, I planned to go get one for her too. This year I debated whether she was old enough to care for an American girl doll, knowing how cheap they aren’t. But finally I decided that she would do fine with it. They have a “Just Like You” doll that you can buy to match the features of the little girl getting it. I went to visit the store at their new location. Oh my goodness this place was a little girl’s heaven! This was the perfect gift to be from Santa Claus this year! The dolls were beautiful, the clothes were too! But expensive!

Geez, it was 105$ just for doll! Awww, but the store was hustling and bustling with little girls and their parents and their dolls. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so the Christmas mood was creeping on me. “My little girl is worth this.” I told myself. I picked out a little ballerina outfit, hmmmm 36$ more – but I guess it could be 2 outfits and you get a little (very little) book. Then I saw a Christmas dress on a doll, and it was beautiful! Red velvet . . . and the smallest matching “real girl” size would fit my little doll baby. :) But, the girls dress felt like it was lined with plastic-ey vinyl material. You know, like the dress up dresses you find at a department store.

So, I passed on that one. Next I saw the pajamas. Well, I found a cute matching set that looked pretty warm with snowflakes on the shirt. Good. Both outfits together were 58$ which seemed like a bargain because you save money by buying them together. And, the little doll’s jammies had little blue slippers to go with it!! Wait a minute though, the girl’s slippers not included in the “deal” they were 22$ more. I was beginning to think we might just get her the doll, the dance outfit and pick out a book for Christmas.

We could always come back for her birthday or something for a matching outfit thing. Yeah, that way she can pick out the one she’d love the best. (It would be so much more fun with her there, but I didn’t wanna ruin the surprise!) So, the last thing to do was find a book. Most of the books were only 9.95$. I picked up one that talked about minding your manners, and I looked at the back of the book and it said 8+ with a circle around it. That meant it was good for 8 year olds and over, but I figured manners are ok for anybody to read about. Then something caught my eye.

It said “Printed in China” above the barcode. I did a double take. I set the book back down. In all fairness, I am not one of those people who are against doing business in other countries, but this seemed different. I hadn’t seen many books that said “Printed in China” in fact, even the Christmas coloring books that I had purchased early that week in a dollar store were “Printed in the U.S.A.” So I looked at the little ballerina outfit box I had in my hands and flipped it over. And there it said, right above the barcode “Made in China”. I looked at it for a moment. Then I turned over the doll. And sort of prayerfully thinking “Please, not the doll too.” But there it was, in black and white: “Made in China”.

This past year we threw away a bag full of toys that had been recalled because lead paint was used on some toys with the same batch numbers as the ones we had purchased last Christmas. Who knows if the ones we had were “leaded”, but who has the time to go to your local health department and get toys tested for safety? Or who has time to package them all up and sent them to the designated addresses so the companies could possibly get you a replacement? Anyways, that is enough about that.

Suddenly, my American Girl doll didn’t look like the perfect present. The #13 “Just Like You” doll and all the others probably cost 2$ to make in a Chinese factory; and maybe 1$ to ship over to America, but the tax breaks would pay them back for the shipping right? And anyway, they stock them up on American Girl store shelves and sell them for one hundred and five dollars. And you know that every parent and grandparent is saying to themselves as they hand over their hard earned money, “It’s a lot, but my little girl is worth it.”

Sure, American Girl dolls and stores with their salons, and hospitals and theaters are so wonderful for little girls. But if you really think about it, it isn’t the popularity of this novelty doll, it isn’t the dresses or the accessories that are so pretty to just about any little girl (even me, and I’m 25 year old little girl). It’s about tradition. It’s about connecting with our daughters and wanting them to have beautiful things and experiences. We want for them to feel special. Even if it means going into debt, this is what we Americans are teaching our kids.

I didn’t buy the doll. I placed her back on the shelf and left the store. It was difficult to leave without a doll, but I told myself, “My little girl is worth it.” I had no idea what I was going to get her for Christmas (and I’m still working on it.) But, I’m not worried; I will find her something great. They say that you get what you pay for. I couldn’t justify buying the 2$ dollar doll for the 100$ name. But if it’s the name brands you like, might I suggest the American Girl Store? Where you can buy an American Girl doll, Made in CHINA.

Have the Merriest of Christmas’s
in 2008

moved from: – and as I imported I read it and it sounds I don’t like China products or something. Just to clarify, I love China and their culture is so vibrant and interesting. The point of this post, as I recall, was to point out the oxymoron of the dolls name.