Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

  Dec. 15, 2003

Send a Christmas letter instead of a card

I'm an old hand at Christmas letters. I send one every year. I am one of those people who live for the mail and the best way to get mail is to send mail.

I enjoy Christmas letters much more than Christmas cards with just a printed signature but even that is nice to receive because it means someone thinks enough of me to spend 37 cents to keep in touch at least once a year.

I have a list of rules for Christmas letters but don't pay any attention. Just send me a letter or a card. I have never gotten a letter or a card in my life that I wasn't glad to receive.

I know people who only get one Christmas card a year: from their insurance agent. I don't want to be like that.

However, if there should be any rules for Christmas letters, here they are:

Rule #1. Don't boast too much. Here are samples of acceptable boasting:

"Mary Ann was employee of the month at Burger King."

"We had the grandest time in Hawaii. Larry had won the trip for selling the most snowmobiles this year."

"Julie got her driver's license."

"Alfred was selected starting quarterback for the varsity."

"We had 23 people for Thanksgiving dinner."

"Fluffy, our cat, placed runner up at the 'Miss Kitty Pageant."

"Joey is star scout on the Eagle trail and a member of the Order of the Arrow."

"Sarah is in preschool at Montessori and knows all her colors."

"Michelle was again elected to the National Honor Society and is manager of the pep team."

"Bob is an active lap swimmer (swims 1 K, MWF)."

"Jeffrey is a Gerber baby!"

(Please. I'm not making fun of anyone. Christmas brings out the best in everyone, doesn't it? We are thrown back on our loved ones and we have bragging rights on those near and dear to us.)

Rule #2. Do consider other people's feelings. Let the divorcees in your family make their own announcements. Don't tell people about your matching 2003 Porsche convertibles. They may be driving 1979 Ford Escorts. Don't tell about all the cousins who have "gone into treatment" this year.

Rule #3. Don't bring up politics. If you are a Republican, don't gloat about how much money you are making and how big your tax breaks are this year. If you are a Democrat, don't tell about your plans to move to Mexico or Canada. And don't solicit donations, at least not yet.

Rule #4. Don't bring in religion. This is in very bad taste. After all, this is Christmas and the religious part of it has been long gone - or haven't you noticed?

Waverly's New Beginnings

Some time back, I wrote about a man named Steve who had been brought to New Beginnings from Denver by some benefactors who learned about him through a column in the Denver Post by Cindy Rodriguez who was doing a feature on the homeless in Denver.

I have good news about Steve. He has now been sober and back in Colorado. He has over three months of sobriety and has recovered both his health and his family.

Here's Cindy's description:

"'He's inside waiting for you,' a voice called out. I ran. From the swooping field, into the ranch house, past a Crucifix, past a 'Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous' poster.

"I stopped in the kitchen. There he was, sitting in a velvet recliner. Steve. His lips stretched into a wide smile. 'Hey! Look at you!' I said.

"We hugged. Then he said humbly, 'Thank you for saving my life.' My eyes got watery. Was this the same man I met on the corner of Welton and Twelfth Streets back in June?

His skin wasn't streaked with dirt. It was clean and pink. Gone were those red veins in his eyes, and that stench of vodka. He's eating real food now, not the junk food off the McDonald's $1 menu, and has gained the 30 pounds he needed.

"For all the pessimists who wrote me and said men like Steve won't ever get sober, I hope you're happy to be wrong. Steve, 42, has been clean 98 days and counting. He just needed help. But there are hundreds of Steves in Denver. If only what happened to him could happen to the rest of them.

He remembers how he felt that fateful day. He said, 'That day I said 'God do something even if it's wrong.' That day, Aug. 21, they came. Two Samaritans spirited Steve away to Waverly, Minnesota. I believe in praying for others. I've added Steve to my list. He could fail, as so many alcoholics do after the first time in treatment, but I'm praying Steve will make it.

Something tells me he's got a higher purpose now and that when he's ready, he will come back to Denver to help someone else. Maybe even lots of someone elses."

Waverly's own Mary Kay Herbst Johnson used to drive the van that picked up people like Steve from the Minneapolis airport and take them to New Beginnings. I wonder if she had picked up Steve.

Once when one of the pastors in Waverly announced from the pulpit that he was going "for treatment," the congregation at St. Mary's gave him a standing ovation (He succeeded!).

I asked a close friend in Waverly if it wasn't odd that the people of St. Mary's applauded someone who confessed he had a problem with alcohol, she said, "Are you kidding? Practically every family in Waverly has been touched by alcoholism."

I remember the good people I knew growing up in Waverly who had a drinking problem in the hopeless days before AA. Thank God for the Twelve Steps and AA.

And thank God for Cindy Rodriguez.

And while we're at it, let's thank God for New Beginnings of Waverly, Minnesota.

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