They wouldn’t give the flags back

Kristen and her kids get together regularly with some friends from church. They sort of trade babysitting so the parents can go out for a “date.” When she has a houseful of kids, she does an activity with them. Lucky for me, they have sort of adopted the Stories for Seniors Programs. They have made dozens of beautiful tissue paper flowers and last month they delivered decorated white bags. It looks like they went to a craft store and bought white lunch bags, markers, glitter and all kinds of foam shapes. They decorated the bags with bright colors and designs and wrote messages on the bags. Merry Christmas, Have a Nice Day and God Loves You.

Kristen’s husband is a military guy and in the past she has provided me with little American flags. I use them because we open our program with the Pledge of Allegiance and I play a video of Celine Dion singing God Bless America. We then thank all of the men and women who have ever served in the United States Armed Services. And we thank all of the family members who have waited, worried and prayed back on the homefront.

So along with the decorated bags and the note cards that said FAITH, HOPE, FAMILY AND LOVE, she brought me a new supply of little flags. And I needed them. Why? Because they seem to disappear. The folks like holding them just as they did when they were in grade school. When you were the special kid who got to stand in the front of the room, holding the flag…….and now they all are the special kids holding Kristen’s little flags…but when I go to collect them, they don’t want to give them up!

People in their 80’s want to take the flags back to their rooms. So, Kristen brought me 24 more.

I asked each resident to tell me what the note card message meant to them: Faith, Hope, Love, Family.

One lady said, I got the cards that say FAMILY. What that means to me is that I no longer have any family. We used to have great times. I had a big basement with a fireplace. I used to cook and we would have big parties. So many cousins and aunts and uncles and neighborhood people, too. They are all gone now.

So, what can you say? Oh, you can’t have the flag. I need it for my next program.

Of course not…….they love the flag. They love what it means. The deep patriotism that they felt when they lived through WWII. When they lost a brother in the Korean War. When they lost their son in Vietnam. When they watch a loved one suffer with the effects of Agent Orange. These flags are not just flags. They are symbols of the trials and tragedies they have endured in their lives. The flags are very important to them. One has a grandson with wounds from an explosion in Iraq. And another one loved a soldier who had a wound to the eye, that experienced a permanent vision disability that shattered his dreams for a good future.

The flag is a a reminder that defending your country and the human rights of others is a part of being an American soldier or Marine. The residents will hold that flag dear to them ’til the end. And Kristen and her kids have given them a special gift – a little flag.

Kristen and her kiddies brought red beads and bells that jingled and jangled as we sang Christmas songs. And the bell necklaces were all worn happily,  and jingled and jangled as they walked out of the activity room, or wheeled out of the activity room….with a pile of Christmas presents on their laps, all donated by the people who read my blog or heard of the project from their friends.

This particular group is not poor, and live in a upscale retirement community. But,  that doesn’t mean that they do not appreciate copper tin ornaments in the shapes of gingerbread men and stars, note paper that says Faith and hand lotions, cookies, tissues, Christmas cards, and sugarless candies.

And they all left the room with memories shared – of the times that they took their kids to Breakfast with Santa, celebrated a grandchild’s Christmas birthday on Long Island, fed the ducks on the icy pond, vacationed with the family in a log cabin on Lake Michigan, and attended a Christmas Eve  worship service at a Baptist church, even though they were Catholic. Little exchanges that they didn’t know about each other. Little things that made them laugh. Little things that made me glad that I was there with them.


In the spirit of giving and receiving, I think that Operation Secret Santa was a grand success. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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