I used to fantasize that I would wake up one day to find a huge, red-and-gold dragon hovering above in the bright blue sky, glittering in the sun, undulating wildly and breathing fire. That's it. Just hanging out, inexplicably.
I was in my 20s, with an infant and two jobs, dealing with a touch of postpartum depression, an exhausting, ill-fated marriage, a dying mother, and a father who had just lost his eyesight. Seemingly overnight I had stepped out of my role as an aggressive young reporter drinking whiskey from a flask in my desk drawer on deadline and running with the cool crowd and into that of a full-time caregiver three times over and part-time punching bag.
The dragon, I suppose, represented the hope that something big, something bright, something extraordinary could happen to lift me out of my daily grind. Sometimes it would swoop down and carry my daughter and me on a flight of fancy, around the world, where people would point up, oohhhing and aahhhing and feeling quietly envious of our great fortune.
I was reminded of that the other day when I was tooling around a store looking for some not-too-cheesy decorations for autumn. I rounded a corner — and there it was. One huge chunk of those multi-tiered shelves that display greeting cards was empty, and sitting next to it was a pile of big cardboard boxes waiting to be unloaded. Christmas cards, no doubt. Mind you, it was Sept. 17. Our pool wasn't even closed for the season yet. I hadn't had my first bag of candy corn for 2011. Or answered the age-old question of canned vs. homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.
Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas and the winter solstice, the season of hope and of light, the second most joyous of the year's celebrations for me as a Christian and that point when the wheel is turning almost imperceptibly toward the light of spring even as Mother Earth lays dormant in her season of restorative slumber. But come on. It was freakin' September. (Regular readers of this column will know this is one of my major gripes.)
The much-anticipated holiday season — like my dragon — offers a break from our mundane, sometimes painful, realities and dissolves the spell of apathy that the cold, hard, modern world can cast. Retail considerations aside, that's why we embrace it so early. Faith, hope and love rise to the surface of our collective psyche, and all of a sudden it's OK to act silly and corny and gushy, and to love your fellow man once again.
As fundraisers, you all have the unique opportunity to be that fantastical dragon of my dreams, to be Christmas for your donors. As you all know, nothing lifts a person out of the mundane like helping someone else. Nothing embodies the spirit of hope inherent in the holidays like giving. Nothing can pull people's heads out of their own butts as effectively as being part of something bigger than themselves and making a difference.
By now, you all are elbow-deep in your year-end campaigns. Here's to your work — may it glitter and shine, breathe fire, and take your donors on a magical journey back to the heart of their own humanity.