By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

I remember spending one long, gray Christmas season seven years ago in the hospital with my daughter. I wouldn’t say it was a terrible time. While we weren’t happy to be hospital-bound, but we were enormously, elatedly grateful that our little girl, just 3 ½, had survived a critical surgery and was getting the medical care she needed.

Still, spending Christmas morning in the hospital in slushy, deserted downtown Baltimore is a memory in sepia. There’s nothing quite so bittersweet as waking up with a child on a special day, only to recognize that those austere medical surroundings are still with you: the whirring breathing equipment, the IV, the white blankets, the 5th floor view to the parking lot.

I always awakened first, and I would watch her until she did. That morning, I noticed someone had slipped a stuffed animal onto her bed, a white reindeer with shiny gold antlers. When she awoke, her eyes caught sight of it immediately. And she smiled.

Her smiles were worth a million bucks at the time, because she hadn’t yet recovered her speech.

The toy was an anonymous donation. Some group, I don’t even know which, had taken the time to gather the toys, assign them to appropriate kids and make sure they were in place very early Christmas Day. They had peeled away from their own family affairs to help a bunch of strangers: a hundred or so kids with disabilities and special needs stuck in a rehab unit inside Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

Later that day, I remember some of my daughter’s hospital pals coming by to show off their presents. One girl we’d come to know, wheelchair-bound after her treatment for cancer, came by quietly with her dad, a pathologist. She handed my daughter a Barbie video, something she’d outgrown but that she knew would delight a three-year-old. She too had lost her ability to speak, and so the girls communicated through nods and eye contact.

It sounds cliché, but you can do a lot of good at the holidays. Your old coat, a gently used book, a retired computer, a toy or video that didn’t get used — all these can find a good home. Read our story by reporter Diane Porter, an expert recycler, to find out the many, many places you can donate, both close to home and as far away as your gift is needed. Move that extra stuff out of your closets and drawers (hit the garage too), and spread the spirit of the season.

Copyright © 2008 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media