I belong to a group of current and recovering non-profit directors who hang out together on line, offering vent space, advice, and the occasional sharp critique of work, family, and life in general. The group is nicknamed T-Rexes, because they are fierce and get shit done and have awesome roars that strike terror in the hearts of their enemies, but they also have seriously limited reach.
It’s kind of a metaphor, see.
Anyway, one of the highlights of the group is our annual Chriswanzakkah Yule gift exchange. People plan for months in advance to find the perfect presents for this ritual, which has two facets. You can do the holiday of your choosing between Dec. 16 and Jan. 7 (there are myriad depending on your nationality and religion) and/or you can do the Advent Calendar exchange.
Advent also got some face lifts/fractured folklife repurposing. Last year one of the team was going through a tough time, changing jobs in difficult circumstances and moving unexpectedly out of a beloved home due to divorce and family troubles in mid-December. So I made her a “First 24 days in your new home” Calendar, full of silly stuff like a dinosaur pillowcase, some cooking herbs to restart her kitchen puttering, and a stress gun that shot teeny wee rainbow balls. (Fill in your own metaphor.)
For my gifts over the years, I’ve gotten a gin calendar from Beth, a sweet note about being a strong person for others from Joyce, and for a gift one year Ben sent an exquisite antique Blue Ball canning jar. I’ve also had yarn made from leftover saris from a non-profit helping women out of difficult marriages in India. And a small silver T-Rex necklace, which I wore the day I had to stand up to a bully about a sexual harassment policy. And the day I protested a detention center. And the day I wasn’t sure my mom would make it out of surgery. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, clutching my tiny silver T-Rex and remembering the group who has my back when the very air feels toxic.
This year, one of the Rexes was told by her husband that he hadn’t signed on for a lifetime commitment to her and the kids, based on the fact that one of the kids would always BE a medically and emotionally needy kid, and therefore he was walking away. And by the way she needed to support him until he changed jobs.
Of course we burned him in effigy, but we also sent her a 21-day Ex-Vent calendar (because it takes three weeks to form a new habit) so she could open the chocolate, jewelry, and practical household tools day by day with little notes of encouragement. After a quick note of thanks to Margaret, the Rex who had sent me the wee silver Tyrannosaur years before, I gave it a kiss and a prayer and packed it up for “Sue.” She sent a lovely note to the group saying how much she appreciated the support.
Amy was the name I drew for this year’s Advent exchange and I handcrafted a calendar of five categories: homemade soap, kitchen herbs from our garden, crocheted cork ornaments, plastic dinos in party clothes, and Really Bad Swag collected from conferences over the previous year. In a quick note of thanks, Amy sent me back a small present: a tiny gold T-Rex necklace in every other respect exactly like the silver one I bequeathed Sue.
When I clutch my little gold T-Rex, I can hear the roars of friends who know me and what I can do–and are counting on me to do it as part of the team, each in our myriad ways fixing the messes in this world, one non-profit director day at a time.