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Raggedy Ann

I woke up on my 5th birthday to bright morning sunlight coming through the windows of my grandparents’ den, where I was sleeping on the couch like I always did when we visited their house.  Lying on my side facing across the room, the first thing I saw was a Raggedy Ann doll sitting on a chair by the door.  I couldn’t believe it!  Raggedy Ann was the gift I wanted with all my heart!  Seeing her was so incredible, I wondered if she was really there.  Then I remembered it was my birthday, and flew from the couch to pick her up.

100_9121 She truly was a Raggedy Ann doll, the full-size one with red hair, red and white striped stocking legs, apron, calico dress and bloomers!  If she was the real Raggedy Ann, the one in the books Mom and Dad read to me, she would have “I love you” written inside a heart drawn on her chest.  I checked.  There was.  I knew right then it was going to be the best day ever.

Raggedy Ann has been with me for over forty-two years.  As I moved into my ‘tweens, she sat on my bed with an assortment of stuffed animals.  Eventually, the stuffed animals were given away and Raggedy Ann placed safely in a box for many years.  She had become a bit tattered over time and needed stitches in her neck and a stocking replaced, so when my little girl was born Raggedy Ann was put on her shelf instead of into her hands.  Raggedy Ann didn’t hold the same sort of appeal for my daughter, so this worked out just fine until it was time to store Raggedy Ann once again.  It’s funny how a particular moment or gift will stick with you all your life.  Although Raggedy Ann is a doll long outgrown and will likely never be on the top of any future granddaughter’s wish list, I will keep her safely stored, because the truth is she is keeping a wonderful childhood memory alive for me.

Raggedy Ann HeartI’ve been thinking about the children I know now and how excited they are about Christmas next week.  Many of them will wake up Christmas morning hoping the gift they want most will be in their stocking or under the tree.  I was once one of those kids, and on many years received the gift I wanted most of all, yet it’s the memory of Raggedy Ann sitting on the chair of my grandparents’ den that stands out as my most delightful childhood gift.  Christmas is just a few days out.  I hope each and every child wakes up to an exciting fun morning with plenty of delight and love in everyone’s heart.

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Ten Minute Difference

The Rio Grande is less than ten minutes walk from the church in San Vicente, Coahuila, Mexico.  The water is so low you could drive a truck across, but it isn’t legal to cross the river just anywhere; and besides, there is no road.  Driving a truck and trailer loaded with food and Christmas gifts means you need to go through at a friendly border crossing, drive around the mountains, and find the rocky dirt road that leads to the desert villages.  You leave paved roads, electricity and cell service hours before you arrive.  What could be an eight hour trip from our home to San Vicente, becomes an eighteen hour drive.  That’s good, because it takes time to adjust to life on the other side of the border.  A lot changes in the ten minute walk from the water that separates us.

The drive prepares you for village life.  My small town washes out the stars each night with the light we send into the sky.  Villagers use solar panels to power a light bulb or two for a few hours.  The stars there are a hundred fold and very bright.  In my community, people keep in contact by cell phone, email, and Facebook.  In the village, residents use two-way radios, church bells, and door-to-door.  In America, thirty miles of country driving means about thirty minutes.  In San Vicente, it’s about two hours.  We use cars and trucks while they use trucks and horses.  In Texas, it’s been so dry ranchers had to sell cattle.  Across the border, cattle carcasses dot the landscape, and calves are killed before they starve.  The coyotes feed on cattle and are doing well, but cats and dogs are rail thin.  No one in the village appeared to eat too much.  At home, nearly everyone I know talks of losing weight.  Big contrast.

One thing that was the same was the hospitality of our hosts.  When we arrived, Benita and Noe showed us to our rooms and made us welcome.  We set up cots and filled five gallon buckets from the water pump outside so we could flush the toilet.  We were glad the solar panels allowed enough light to set up without flashlights.  It was chilly, but the building kept the wind out and our sleeping bags were warm. 

In the morning, Benita made breakfast for us, only she used an outdoor kitchen and cooked on a wood stove.  She had to plan carefully, as we were four hours from a store.  In the outdoor dining room, we could watch the sun rise, just as we can from our Texas porches.  Noe’s sons fed the calf and horses hay, just like on a Texas ranch.  Cats fought and dogs wrestled with each other.

We set out for the church, decorated and set up the children’s area.  Kids came and created ornaments for the tree, colored, and made other crafts, smiling and excited to have something new to do.  The older ones helped the younger ones and when it was time for church to start, the boys jumped to see who could reach the cord to ring the bell.  Just like the northern side of the border, families started coming into church.  We sang songs, told the story of Jesus’ birth, passed out gifts, and enjoyed lots of cookies, candy, popcorn, lemonade, and hot cocoa.  Then we had church service before sending each family home with two full bags of groceries.  ”Thank-you’s” were plentiful and excitement showed in their eyes as they took their gift bags and groceries home.

Afterwards, some of us walked to the Rio Grande to look at the water and Texas side of the river as sun set.  It was quiet and peaceful until the coyotes started howling.

At the river you thought about contrasts and connections between rural American life and desert village life.  There were a lot of differences, most of them traced to money and convenience.  For everything truly important, we were the same.  We build our homes, raise families, welcome guests, worship, and give gifts at Christmastime.  The way we treat guests, family or friends is pretty much the same.  We watch the sun rise and set.  We look for light in darkness, enjoy sharing meals with friends, and are very thankful for toilets that flush.

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