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A change of heart (01/02/2011)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Always carry an extra dose of hope with you on your daily journey...you never know when you might cross paths with someone who needs it more than you do. Spread the good news of a Saviors birth!

Through all this hustling and bustling to prepare for Holiday celebrations and New Year’s parties, something doesn’t add up! There have been Christmas sales going on since before Thanksgiving, not to mention the premature Christmas in July events, drummed up by certain store chains, to reap in all they can by exploiting a society who’s addicted to shopping.

There’s another aspect to the Holiday story, apart from the glitz and glitter, better suited to the lowly manger scene, out in the cold, at Bethlehem. Sad but true, rural counties around Winona have realized a sharp increase in poverty during the past decade. Right in our own backyard! Children are going to bed hungry; parents can’t find jobs and are losing their homes; outbreaks of rage and abuse divide families.

One day in early December, I was rushing all over Winona, fighting back pain, determined to get all my Christmas purchases taken care of on this one miserable excursion. When I could no longer keep going, I sat in my van in tears, glaring at my lengthy list... and then it hit me! What does all this rigmarole, fretting, fuss, and indecision we put ourselves through every year have to do with the true meaning of Christmas?

Am I out of touch with reality, or has it really become the way it feels in the pit of my stomach, in my discerning mind, through flashbacks of life, as it rotates around me in a dizzying pace? My illness has brought me to this awareness, to the place where I can no longer go along with the flow, where I have come to understand pain and suffering, and to cherish acts of human kindness and empathy.

Each new day is a challenge and a blessing, the perfect gift! “Thankful” is a place in your heart reserved for someone who’s been good-hearted towards you. Being “grateful” is a warm and fuzzy moment. Don’t let go of it. Having a “high regard” for someone is respecting another’s generous nature and virtuous ways. Knowing who to thank for the brilliant, breathtaking sunset that you feast your eyes upon every so often – that’s blind faith!

A gift given from the heart versus the credit card is much more meaningful. That old sentiment, “it’s the thought that counts,” seems to have lost its magic, most notably when it comes to the younger generation...but is that their doing? Chronic materialism has been festering for a long time. The younger generation mimics their parents’ ravenous appetite for every new electronic gadget, fine jewelry, and trendy fashions that come along.

Often, teens don’t bother to take good care of their conglomeration of things, because there’s always more where that came from. Sadly, many don’t understand how fortunate they are to be able to take it for granted that their necessities are always provided. Yet, it seems that they aren’t content or satisfied. Putting them down for a situation that they didn’t create, nagging and labeling them is really counterproductive.

We must introduce our young people to an upfront awareness of the real world all around us and in our midst, of hunger, abuse, loneliness, ignorance, fear, despair, and hopelessness. The younger generation of 2011 is capable of sacrifice, compassion and a change of heart. If given the knowledge and the opportunity, great things can happen! Trust their spirit.

Could it be that a change of heart is the Christmas spirit’s greatest gift of all!

A renewed spirit one and all – for a harmonious 2011. Janet Burns can be reached at



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