About 15 years ago I would have been writing my Christmas list for Santa. Filled with wishes for wrestling figures, Hot Wheels, and a Batman bicycle, all I wanted from this holiday was presents. Kids love Christmas. We will never forget the feeling of waking our parents up at the crack of dawn and going to town on Santa’s gifts; Mom and Dad setting up the video camera to record your every move so you can smile when you’re older and show your children your Christmas tradition.
Christmas has changed from when I was five. I feel funny asking for gifts for no reason when you really know the value of money and the state of the economy. You know the daily grind your parents go through to make sure you live a great life. But this isn’t about my Christmas; this is about everyone’s Christmas.
Hurricane Sandy hit my neighborhood hard. Many people lost EVERYTHING. They lost their houses their clothes, their life memories, family pictures; things you cannot replace. I lost a friend and a mentor in my basketball coach for five years and his son, who I was teammate with for almost 10 years. Regardless of how much money is raised, how many concerts there are, how much food and clothes are collected, these people and the many other people who lost their lives won’t be coming back.
Families lost their Christmas lights and decorations so this holiday season is a little dark, but they did not lose their spirit. Three days before Christmas a group of good friends and I went down to Midland Beach in Staten Island to help out a toy drive for children affected by the Hurricane. I went down there to help unload a truck full of donated toys and to set up Santa, but I got a lot more out of this than I expected. People down there, five minutes away from my home, were still ravished by the storm. They weren’t down there for Santa or to help, they came for essentials to every day life: shampoo, paper towels, toilet papers, diapers, soap, baby formula, and water.
I met a woman who easily inspired me to do more. Her name was Tricia. The first thing I noticed about her was of course her Yankee gear. She came with her adorable little daughters, Andrea and Kelly, only six and four years old. Tricia and her family weren’t from Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach, or any other devastated neighborhood from Staten Island, she was from the Bronx. She has been coming over the bridge, which Mayor Bloomberg is soon raising to $15, every weekend since Hurricane Sandy hit.
What really gets me is that her inspiration to all her work was her six year old daughter who doesn’t know what a disaster is. She saw on TV what was going on and asked “Mom, what are we going to do help those people?” Tricia thought of bringing Thanksgiving dinner to Staten Island and with a little help by word of mouth, that Thanksgiving dinner turned into 500 pounds of food. She than coordinated a toy drive that helped to bring smiles to hundreds of children in the area. Tricia is one of hundreds of people who have helped people in need and do it out of the goodness of their heart and nothing else.
All because a six year old girl wanted to help.
I’m sure there are dozens upon dozens of stories like these that are filled with people who want to do nothing else but help. I’ve found out that the people were hit the most are the ones who would do anything for you. My good friend lost his family’s summerhouse as well as family members house in Breezy Point. These people weren’t pumping water of their basement, they were left with whatever was salvaged from their burnt down house. He never pouted, never asked “why me” he just did what had to be done to help his family and his community of Breezy Point.
I learned through all this that life is short and that the world doesn’t stop for anyone. If you followed the events after the storm, you might have heard of the father and son who died in the storm who the Jets contacted and named honorary captains before their Thanksgiving Night game against the Patriots. The captains for that game were my basketball coach, John Flip Sr. and his son and my teammate, John Flip Jr. The Flips were great men and friends. Coach Flip brought fun into sports but knew how to teach you at the same time.
He always preached “Can’t Means Won’t.” These are great words to live by when you are going through rough times. I just think of Coach Flip and I know he will never quit. He didn’t quit on his home or his family. His son was one of the most genuinely nice people you can ever meet in your life. He was a selfless teammate and great leader. The Flips were victims of Sandy but we have to live like they would and that is too help anyone who is need and do it with a smile on your face.Coach you laid down the foundation of basketball for me and taught me everything I know. I used everything I learned from you and put it into my fourth grade team that I coached with my best friends. Thanks to you, these kids were able to celebrate a championship season. Of course I brought them to Lee’s Tavern after to cap off the year, just like you did for your son, the whole team, and me.
Rest In Piece to the Flips: A great father and coach and even better son.
As soon as the community and neighborhood got over one tragedy, another one hits the heart in a totally different way.
What happened in Connecticut breaks my heart as it does the whole worlds. This could have happened anywhere. I can’t put into words what it would go through losing a son or daughter, or a nephew, niece, brother, sister, or family member. I’m not going to get into what happened and the aftermath because we are all sick and tired of being reminded of it. It is sketched in our mind forever.
All this tragedy of course leads to Christmas. Christmas is a family holiday where we give to loved ones presents to bring them joy and show our love for them. But this year is different. Maybe it is my age and realizing the price of Christmas but that’s not the case this year. If the sickening tragedy in Connecticut or pictures of Hurricane Sandy doesn’t humble you, I don’t know what will. I rather lose all my cars and everything I own rather than lose a family member or friend.
As one tragedy ends, another one begins. It is a cycle that we cannot stop but we must overcome.
The world is filled with millions and millions of great people but is overshadowed by evil. We have witness firsthand the worst tragedies not only the last 2 months but for a long time now. Whether our personal life or our community as a whole, we have all gone through enough heartbreak.
It’s time to be humble this Christmas. Time to appreciate who, and not what; we have around us in our lives.
Count your blessings, not your presents.
Merry Christmas Everyone: