“We make a living by what we get, but we make life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Now that gift season has passed, it’s time to quickly eat the chocolate your loved one gave you and quietly replace those new Christmas pants with a larger size or restart the diet you swore to stick to a year ago. What happened there? Is this fruitcake from grandma’s re-gift from last year? When and how did all this giving start anyway?
It is believed that gift giving can be traced back to the animal kingdom; The human ancestors of male chimpanzees tempted females with bits of food in exchange for mating preferences. Moving up the ladder of evolution, caveman and early caveman gave each other little gifts—mammoth tusks, leopard skin wrap, and a new Gucci purse (if you could catch a Gucci)—to prove they could provide for the family. Tribal leaders rewarded their followers with gifts for their contributions to the clan.
The ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations began the custom of celebrating birthdays with gifts. At the other end of the life spectrum, they also buried the wealthy with elaborate gifts, such as clothes, food bowls, and special sweets.
The tradition of Christmas gifting can be traced back to the story of the Three Wise Men who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus. In the thirteenth century, French nuns brought gifts and gave them to the needy on the eve of Saint Nicholas, but the giving of Christmas gifts began already in the eighteenth century.
Holidays at the Beaches Museum
The Museum of the Beaches received a special Christmas gift from Florida Relief Fund for the Humanities’ American Rescue Plan. A grant of $25,000 was made for general operating costs to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
The generous grant was certainly cause for joy. The museum celebrated “Village Holidays”. Trees and historical buildings are decorated and illuminated, bringing people back to an earlier time. December 10-11 was a railroad festival featuring rides on the famous North Pole Express as it’s called “season” and a ride on the Florida East Coast Railroad.
At Mayport Depot, young and old have fun with the model train design created and operated by Beaches Train Club. On December 16, Christmas carols sounded in the courtyard and dancers from First Coast Dance, St. Paul’s Contemporary Choir, Dance Theory Rhythm Ensemble, and the Community Presbyterian Bell Choir entertained.
Lunch for new arrivals
New arrivals from First Coast gathered on December 16 for lunch at the Queens Harbor Yachting and Country Club. The social group meets at various locations around the beaches from Sawgrass Country Club to Atlantic Beach Country Club.
“We have 214 members and meet throughout Jacksonville,” said President Carol Wright. Wright and her partner, Judy Ellis, presided over the lunch.
Ellis started things off with a humorous note by listing ‘gifts for the person who has everything…I’m always looking for something new to give my husband for Christmas.’ She said, ‘He’s the type to buy whatever he wants whenever he wants, so I have very little left of it. options”.
Her extensive list of unusual gifts included a “send a potato face” from AnonymousPotato.com. For $19, you can upload your photo and the company will send a real fries packed with a face to the recipient. On Amazon, you can buy a “jar of nothing” for $30. And if all else fails, consider buying a Claxton fruitcake.
‘I’ve heard rumors that this is the only one out there;’ she said, ‘they keep on giving it back.’ The lunch guests were then invited to join a round of ‘Happy Birthday’.
On a more serious note, Beach Emergency Assistance Executive Director Laurie Richards spoke about how BEAM is helping people in need in the community. I used the example of a woman who had three children who were evacuated and needed help. “Because of the generosity of our community, family has a place to live,” Richards said, adding that “single mothers are the largest demographic in our area.”
BEAM was formed in 1985 by 10 chaplains in the Beaches Alliance Ministerial. They each had a little money in their budget for people in crisis. They came together to create BEAM, which helps with rent and utilities. BEAM has grown and now has a pantry and “Grace Garden” that grows 7,000 to 8,000 pounds of vegetables for its pantry. BEAM also has a food bank that collects surplus food from retailers who would otherwise dispose of it. Major customers are provided with transportation, simple home repairs, grocery deliveries, and more.
“When we come together and work together, we can make a huge difference in people’s lives,” Richards said.
SAFE (Safe Animals from Euthanasia) The pet rescue of St. Augustine brought dogs and cats a little joy to the beaches on December 18 when a mobile adoption cart visited the Ponte Vedra Pet supermarket. It was an opportunity to adopt a four-legged love package as a Christmas gift and give a home to a homeless pet.
SAFE is a non-profit organization focused on rescuing adoptable dogs, puppies, kittens, and kittens that are destined to be euthanized at a killing shelter. Because of overcrowding, shelters in the area such as the Jacksonville Humane Society, St. John’s Pet Center, Animal Care and Conservation Services are reaching out to help find homes for some of their animals. SAFE provides shelter, food, and medical care until a home is found. Four shelters take care of around 180 dogs and 50 cats and are open for adoption 365 days a year.
The festive event included music, bake sale, hot cocoa, pet adoption, and a photo opportunity with Santa and the newly adopted pets.
More than 15,000 animals have been saved since Robin Nordan founded SAFE 10 years ago. Pets come from shelters and when a pet is delivered after the owner dies, such as epidemic owners who died from COVID. Some also come from animal hoarding and hurricane-hit areas.
“We have a thorough screening procedure to make sure the pet is a perfect fit for the household and conditions. They complete a two-page questionnaire and provide a driver’s license. We always need a nursing home,” volunteer Jane Gleeson said.
In addition to financial donations, SAFE needs donations of quality dog and cat food, pet treats, leashes and collars, pet carriers, cat litter, towels, sheets, sanitizer, plastic garbage bags and more. For information about SAFE, go to Safe-Pet-Rescue-fl.com.
Fantasy Farms Holiday Party
At a Fantasy Farms holiday party, Dr. Al Copland of the Mayo Clinic was happy to receive a $45,000 gift check plus an additional $10,000 from the Sawgrass SenioRITAs organization that is part of the RITA Foundation (Research is the Answer).
SenioRITAs is a major women’s tennis and auction party that has been raising money to support breast cancer research and patient services at the shores of Mayo and Baptist Medical Center since 1999. $240,000 was raised in 2021. In addition to the $55,000 gifted to Mayo , the rest of the proceeds will be donated early this year to: Baptist Hospital Buddy Bus Mobile Busmography Unit; Baptist Beaches Imaging Center provides mammography for the underprivileged; Life Wellness Center at MD Anderson to help cancer patients on their journey; Mayo Clinic honors former tennis pro Sawgrass Chuck Saacke and discontinued the DigniCap regimen that reduces hair loss from chemotherapy.
SenioRITAs are supported by local businesses, residents, and sponsors. The top sponsors for 2021 were Fields Auto Group, Main Street Insurance America, Best Bit, Trust Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley and Regency Centres. To find out more, go to www.the-rita-foundation.org/sinioritas.
The last word …
During the Victorian era, giving a gift was an expression of kindness, love, creativity, and joy. People spent time shopping for the right thing that would suit their friend, loved one or loved one. Today, as in cave days, men donate generously to attract mates and/or keep mates (if they know what’s good for them). On the other hand, women are motivated by forming and maintaining social bonds.
Unfortunately in these modern times, the holiday seems to be about getting more than giving. On the one hand, gifting has become a very complicated matter. Instead of a baby doll or soccer ball, little ones want the latest video game or an expensive piece of electronic equipment.
Even better than the “just give us gift cards or cash” that big kids would like. Where is the thought, emotion, creativity and joy in that? I try to keep in mind that it’s not the gift, but the thought that counts, or as comedian Joan Rivers said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift from God, which is why we call it the present.”
Jackie Rooney is a freelance writer living in Ponte Vedra Beach. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.