My favorite curmudgeon loudly proclaimed with one accord: Christmas blows.
“This holiday season is off to an astounding commercial and commercials start. It is no longer religious or even about goodwill to others,” he wrote on social media. “Bah humbug!”
His joyless pronouncement came after our dour discussion on the classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a favorite movie of mine that reminds us how our lives touch other lives, often without us realizing it.
The film left Mr. Curmudgeon cold.
“Actually, how we touch each others’ lives is more depressing than satisfying these days,” he said. “Addictions, homelessness, crime, school and all other shootings and murder, anti-vaxxers, anti-abortion zealots, etc. National news hour equals 55 minutes of bad news and five of good.”
It’s an understandable feeling. This year hasn’t exactly been reminiscent of a Frank Capra movie.
It’s all the more frosty because we had such hope for 2021. We expected the new year to make our lives wonderful again, or at least more normal, manageable, predictable, COVID-less and Kumbaya-like. But for many folks, this year feels more turbulent, angrier, deadlier than that dreadful 2020.
And then there is Sarah Love.
You may remember her as one of the 2020 Angels Among Us recipients, so honored for her work with her nonprofit, The Pink Bus, which provides food staples, treats and other necessities and goodies for folks in need, all distributed in her distinctively pink 1978 Volkswagen bus.
For her, Christmas is a very merry way to touch the lives of others and give back to the community.
Last year, COVID-19 and mechanical problems kept the bus parked in front of her Northeast Heights home, so instead of driving to where the need was she urged the needy to come to her for curbside service.
And they did, every other Saturday to her driveway where the genial Love greeted each recipient with a smile and a chat and bags full of soups, pastas, eggs, bread, cookies, mittens and more.
“She knows their names, knows what they like, what they need,” her mother and helper, Ramona Eastwood, told me on one of those Saturday mornings last December. “She worries when a regular doesn’t show up. She checks up on them.”
But even as she energetically bounded from car to car, she was fighting the pain from fracturing her hip socket and tearing the cartilage that lines and reinforces the ball-and-socket joint.
“Fourteen months of physical therapy and it never got better,” she said this week. “MRIs and doctors kept saying that it was chronic pain and I should learn to live with it, but I knew it was an injury and I just kept pushing for something to fix it.”
Finally, a test pinpointed the injury, and after obtaining the opinions of three orthopedic surgeons, she agreed to undergo surgery Oct. 29 to repair her hip.
But being housebound and on crutches as she recovers hasn’t stopped her from continuing her Pink Bus mission. With the help of volunteers and her savvy use of social media and online resources, she’s kept on serving the needy, even managing to hold her fourth annual photo session fundraiser with Santa for a record 102 children on Nov. 7 – more than double the number photographed last year.
“I have such a good support system, not just for The Pink Bus but my life,” she said.
This Christmas, Love added a Giving Tree to fulfill the wish lists of children in need.
Some of the requests on the wish lists, available on The Pink Bus Facebook page, are grand – a Playstation, headphones, iPod, a bike.
Others are heartbreakingly spartan – a hoodie, socks, diapers.
“It’s emotional going through that list of kids who ask for no toys but just the essentials like socks and a blanket,” Love said. “There is so much need out there.”
When we spoke, Love’s Giving Tree included the wishes of 81 children, 47 of those wishes fulfilled. She remains optimistic that people will come forward, either with donations of the requested gift or the funds for her volunteers to purchase them, in time for Christmas.
She has not an ounce of curmudgeon in her, but she gets why some do.
“We are all going through some things, and it’s easy to feel like we’re plummeting down a hole,” she said. “But we can all give others the glimmer of hope, an ember to a fire.”
Another way to help came by email from a nurse named Christina who asked me to remind you all that the University of New Mexico Hospital is still full of COVID-19 patients, who are not allowed visitors under current guidelines.
Those patients could use a little cheer, she said.
Like I asked you to do in May 2020, please send a get-well card with a note of encouragement to these hospitalized folks battling for their lives. It’s a simple, affordable way to touch other lives and feel good doing it.
Plenty of other opportunities to give back are out there, too, if you just look, because Christmas really is about goodwill to others.
And who knows? Giving may just make Mr. Curmudgeon and others like him feel a little less humbug.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, firstname.lastname@example.org.