When you think of the game Ding Dong Ditch, chances are it doesn't involve the season of giving. Visions of sugar plums aren't dancing in your head and you're usually more concerned with making the naughty list than you are the nice. Unless of course, you happen to be spending Christmas with my Mother-In-Law in a small town in western Nebraska. It's a hard working place where everyone pitches in to lend a hand when needed, people still wave at each other along the roads and real customer service still exists. In this small, self-reliant town, people's hearts are as big as their farm trucks and that's a great thing because when you live 3 hours from the next major city, that's all you have to rely on. So what does this have to do with Ding Dong Ditch you ask?
Good question and I promise I'm getting there. But first, a little more background on things.
Always having lived in a larger city, I personally don't know what it's like to graduate with the same 30 kids I went to 1st grade with... and only the 30 kids I went to 1st grade with.
My Mother-In-Law (who for the sake of anonymity will now be known as Honey, which is what her grandchildren call her) does. She is a fantastic 4th grade teacher and has the pleasure of opening the minds of all the children who come through her classroom and town.
When I first met Honey before my husband and I were married, I was blown away by her ability to be (for lack of better comparison) a real life Martha Stewart (jail time excluded). When you think about Martha, all these wonderful things come to mind. Home cooked meals, perfect little cookies, acres and acres of gardens, a well maintained farm, linens organized by size and color in closets... the list goes on. Honey is all of these things and on top of that she is active in her church, an outstanding member of her community and the most cheerful teacher west of the Mississippi. To this day, I still don't know when she actually sleeps.
They always say being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs anyone can have. Not just because they help to structure the minds of our children, but because you see first hand the effects that life in general has on the children you work, day in and day out with. They aren't able to hide away emotions such as grief or despair and wear their heartache on their sleeve. Teachers for the most part are more than just instructors, they are care givers, comforters and counselors and are always on the clock.
This is where my holiday story of Ding Dong Ditch begins. Honey knew that some of the smiling faces in her classroom, wouldn't be having a Christmas. There were a few children who through conversation had revealed that their Christmas was going to be non-existent as their parents were struggling to keep lights on and a roof over their head. Being children, they were grateful for what they had, but knew that other children would be getting presents for Christmas, when they weren't. Their chins were up, but Honey was determined to make their holiday the best it could be.
By the cloak of sunset and shadows in our favor, Honey, my Sister-In-Law and myself headed out with a car full of presents for not only the children, but their siblings and parents who were struggling to provide as best they could. House after house, we parked out of sight behind trees, ran across snow covered ground and set presents on the children's doorsteps, rang the bell and sprinted back to the car.
It wasn't until after I had returned home from our vacation to the middle of the great plains that I would hear the conclusion to our good deeds. When school started back, the children filed into Honey's classroom and began to tell the stories of their Christmas break. Some told stories about traveling to families houses. Some shared about their extravagant holiday dinners and others about the toys and presents they received. But none were as filled with joy as those who weren't expecting anything under their tree that year. To this day, I still tear up as I remember the phone call from Honey recounting the smiles on their faces as they said that Santa had come. They told her about the joy that filled their home that Christmas season and how Santa even remembered their mom and dad.
The presents we left on the doorsteps weren't lavish by any means. They were the things all kids love, little purses and footballs, coloring books and crayons and so forth, but to them, they were the best presents ever. Each year my husband and I are able to make the 8 hour journey to the family farm, we continue to share our Christmas with others in this manner. Honey flies solo on the years that she doesn't have any other elves in her sleigh and is always sure that she is able to share with all of her children, inside the classroom and out.
This year won't be one that we are able to make the journey to help Honey share her Christmas with others, I hope she knows that this tradition has touched my heart as well as the children we ding dong ditch. Be kind to others, share what you have and give of yourself freely. These are the wonderful things that Honey has shared with me and it's been my pleasure to share with all of you.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.