Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 12/11/2008 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - A Thankful Holiday Season

Martha's Big Adventure -- A Thankful Holiday Season

By Martha Randolph Carr

A wise minister once said that our prayers are answered faster when we are in the darkest places and still hold gratitude in our hearts. At times, that can be a Herculean task.

The subway train was rattling along the tracks up the east side of Manhattan as the man stood in the center of the car with his wife and small, dark-haired two year old son. 'I'm not begging for money,' he announced, 'I'm looking for a job.'

The tired-looking father and husband explained that he was laid off as a doorman four months ago and had been searching for work ever since, without any luck. Times had become desperate and his small family was staying in a church that operates a shelter at night for families. They were placed by Peter's Place, a part of The Partnership for the Homeless in New York City, where families can find counseling, job training and assistance with housing. A minister from the shelter had given him clothes that could be used for a job interview, which he was carrying in a large, clear plastic bag.

He could have looked for a warm place to sit during the day, wallowing in the turn of luck that had beset his family during the holidays. Most shelters don't allow people to stay during the day.

But rather than lament what he had lost, the man stood up straight and listed his best qualities in the hope of a better day. He ticked off polite, hard working, willing to try anything or train for something new.

He believed that things could be better and he was willing to do his part. There are more Americans who find themselves in the same position as this family man every day who are searching for a way to be of service to themselves and their family and earn a decent living.

There are also many of us who are facing hard times but can still offer some assistance, whether it's a donation of food, a job or volunteering at a shelter.

There has been a lot of talk lately about what's gone wrong with our economy and who got us here but put that chat off for now. When the house is on fire it's more important to get everybody out of the building and into someplace safe. Pick through the ashes on another day.

Use this time to count your blessings instead and extend a helping hand. If your family is a lot like so many others this holiday season who can't afford the usual lavish display of gifts or parties, take this opportunity to gather together and talk about what can be done for others, as a family. Let this year be more about the giving than the getting and let it have more sustenance than a new ratchet set or a cashmere sweater. Your entire family can feel empowered and richer by changing their focus.

Include in the brainstorming session a list of all the things your family can be grateful for this year. If someone at the table wants to start out with all of the stuff they own, that's okay too. Make sure each friend and loved one is named as well.

And then, set out a plan to volunteer time and talent to a local shelter or food bank or children's program as a family. Besides easing someone else's burden, what you may also find is that the one who can offer compassion generally receives far more in return.

As the small family left the train that day the father suddenly turned back and said, 'Blessings,' just before they blended back into the moving crowd. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Martha will be appearing at the United Way in Canton, Ohio on January 27th. Open to the public. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: or visit

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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