Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joy, Midst Grief

As a high school principal, I get to watch some of the most heartwarming and wonderful things take place among my staff and students.  It is both humbling and inspiring, and quite honestly, I don’t have much to do with it.  Nothing, really.  It comes from the creative souls and generous giving hearts of those around me.

For example . . .

The Master Chief in our JNROTC program has quietly, for the past four or five years, organized the Cookie Project.  Cookies of all sorts are donated.  We’re talking huge quantities of all kinds of cookies, the amount and quantity that might induce a diabetic coma should you enter their door.  Six cookies are collected and placed into a container, and then all the containers are taken to area Rest Homes and Retirement Communities.  The beauty?  No one knows this is actually going on except the JNROTC Officers, the cadets, and their parents.  When asked why the newspaper wasn’t contacted or even our own school newspaper not notified, Master Chief stated that, “Sometimes, you do things because it is good to do good!”  People who might not receive anything this holiday season will get something, and more importantly, they will be remembered when perhaps they might not have been.

For example . . .

Our School Social Worker placed a small tree in the staff workroom.  The tree was decorated with paper ornaments, but not just any ornaments.  Each ornament listed an item from a needy family’s wish list, and the wish list came from five or six needy families, all anonymous- unknown by name to our faculty.  Our faculty and staff would then pick an ornament and purchase the item for the family.  The wonderful thing that took place was that the ornaments lasted perhaps a day and a half, and some folks were disappointed that they couldn’t get an ornament for the family.  Bicycles.  Books.  Dolls.  You name it, our staff bought it.  The family that is our staff will bring joy to families who might otherwise go without.

For example . . .

One of our teachers organizes the yearly food drive that is sponsored by the American Legion. In the past, this drive fed holiday dinners for approximately 300 families from our county.  These are families who would not be able to afford or provide a meal that most of us take for granted.  300 families!

And then . . .

This year, this Christmas season is a very real struggle for my family, for me.  We’ve decorated the house.  Kim will make cookies.  Presents will be wrapped and placed under the tree.  We’ll celebrate our Christmas as a family and then make the trek to Wisconsin to celebrate with our extended family.  Yet, the shadow and specter of my son’s death, which occurred just five months ago, shrouds what is typically a very special, happy time of year for us.  However, there have been wonderful, supportive staff members, even students, who check in on me to make sure I’m doing alright.  They acknowledge that it is tough going, but they offer support and I know they are there if needed, wanted.  And I’m so thankful to them, for them.  They are so appreciated.  And they do this for other folks like me, who have suffered a loss and are suffering quietly.  This staff is family to me.  While there are disagreements and squabbles- like most families- we care about one another and it shows in so many ways.

So there is balance. 

On one hand, joy and giving and acts of kindness without the expectation of recognition.  On the other hand, sadness- not just for my family and me- but for countless, nameless others who will go without, others who walk in pain and wear it like a cloak, others whose heart aches from suffering that goes, perhaps, unnoticed.

Joy, Midst Grief.

So I do ask you to do one thing:

As you celebrate your season, your holiday, your Christmas, absolutely and totally love those around you, those who are precious to you, and let them know, show them, that you love them, care for them.  I’ve learned that life is too short.  The unexpected, and sometimes the unwanted, happens.  Don’t let a day, an hour, a minute go by without telling and showing those who are important to you that they are important to you.  You can’t take their love for granted.  They can’t, and shouldn’t, take your love for granted.  Spend your time, and your love, wisely.  Something to think about . . .

God Bless Each of You, and May Each of You Have Peace and Joy this Christmas Season!
From My Family: Kim, Hannah, Emily and Me.  And from Maria, and yes, Wil, too!

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Thank you for purchasing and reading Taking Lives, the prequel to my trilogy, and for purchasing and reading Stolen Lives, the first book of the trilogy.  If they made you uncomfortable and perhaps kept you up at night, I guess I did my job.  But more than that, I hope I gave you a glimpse of the hope and the courage that can be found in our humanness.  I hope you caught a glimpse of the friendship, the caring and compassion, and the love that exists in our humanness.  If you did, then I know I did my job.

You can find Taking Lives by Joseph Lewis on and at this link:

You can find Stolen Lives by Joseph Lewis on and at this link:


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Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe