Face Value

The night before the night before Christmas, I felt a strong urge to call my 92-year-old Grammy Helen in rural Wisconsin. I usually talk to her on Christmas Day while she’s spending time at my uncle’s home, but this call couldn’t wait. As soon as she answered the phone, I knew something was off. My grandmother never complains, ever. She said she hasn’t been feeling well, so she drove herself to the local clinic where the doctor suggested a few tests. As a result, Grammy told my uncle not to trek halfway across the state to come get her. She’s weathering Christmas largely alone in her little apartment. She may drive the two miles to church if there isn’t any snow on the ground. But since she hates to inconvenience anyone, she won’t ask any of her friends to come visit or pick her up. Not on Christmas…because she knows most people have their own family gatherings scheduled. It breaks my heart to think about her sitting by herself on this special holiday. I wish I could drop everything and make my way to Wisconsin, but it’s just not possible. Of course, I’ll call her and other family members will call her, but she will still be alone. It’s a stark reminder that not everyone is surrounded by loved ones this holiday season…not everyone is full of joy and peace…not everyone enjoys Christmas. For some, it’s the exact opposite. They dread this season with all of its hustle and bustle, parties and events, get-togethers with friends, emphasis on family. Instead, it’s a reminder of what they don’t have or what they’ve lost. The holidays are a struggle instead of a celebration, a season to survive. Neighbors, colleagues, friends, even some of our own family members have braced themselves for this time of year. We may not recognize their personal pain; they may be like my grandmother who would never admit to being lonely on Christmas. But when we dig a little deeper, not everything is what it appears to be on the surface. Not everything can be taken at face value.

I recently heard a speaker at a ladies’ event talk about how the holiday season heightens whatever emotions you’re feeling at the time. If you’re in a positive place in your life (new relationship, new baby, new job or promotion, financial gain, prosperous year), Christmas will enhance your joy, peace, contentment, and excitement. But if you’re struggling through a difficult wilderness stretch in your life, the holidays can magnify your sorrow, despair, sadness, and depression. More than likely, you don’t even know if your neighbor, co-worker, or friend is fighting a battle. No one wants to bring everyone else down and spoil the party this time of year. Better to plaster on smiles and join the holiday march. But not everything is what it seems. So many are contending with private pain that threatens to overwhelm them. In the last few weeks, two of my friends have suddenly lost their fathers. Another friend’s sister passed away with very little warning. Still another lost her grandmother unexpectedly. Others I know are bravely battling cancer or debilitating health problems. One of my best friends in the world is facing her first holiday season since the break-up of her marriage and trying to make the week perfect for her young boys even as she remembers holidays past. Then there’s loneliness…a category all its own this time of year. When so much of the emphasis is on getting together with loved ones, it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t have your own family or someone with whom to spend the holiday…like my Grammy. If you’re moving forward after a broken relationship or still waiting for the right relationship to come along, loneliness at Christmastime might be the worst kind. There is no hiding from it. Anyone who’s ever wrestled with loneliness knows it can be debilitating and threaten to drown you.

My biggest struggle over the last six months has been financial. I’ve been trying to sell my empty house in Connecticut while keeping an apartment in New Jersey, closer to work. You’d be surprised how quickly money flies out the window when you’re responsible for both a mortgage AND rent payment. The money disappears in no time, and there’s never enough to go around. I’ve spent hours figuring out how to cut expenses, even necessities, to make ends meet…and I still can’t pay all the bills. I’ve considered moving back home and navigating a four-hour round trip commute, and I’ve wondered whether I made the wrong decision leaving my house behind and taking my job with CBS. I’ve felt like a big fat failure. The whole situation has been frustrating, disheartening, and humiliating. To work so hard yet continually fall behind is unbelievably discouraging. Thankfully, I’ve recently signed a contract to sell my house, but I will need months to get back to even financially. It’s changed my approach to Christmas. I love finding the perfect gifts for my family and surprising friends with packages, but I was unable to spend a dime on presents this year. It’s forced me to remember what Christmas is truly about…and how I can GIVE to those around me without spending money.

Most everyone we meet is fighting a private battle, managing personal pain. We don’t always know the struggles of those around us, but we CAN lighten the loads of family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers. It means not being so wrapped up in our own holiday hustle that we miss opportunities to share the true spirit of Christmas. It means looking beyond face value and understanding not everything is what it appears on the surface. Compassion, empathy, joy, kindness, consideration, tenderness, patience, caring, concern, grace, and mercy are the perfect gifts. A Bible verse says it best: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

Merry Christmas!

 

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13 Responses to “Face Value”

  1. Amy, this is why we love you. One of the bravest things to write yet, and covering some key thoughts and angles that we all can relate to. I know earlier tonite you read my FB post about my family life and my dad who passed, etc. I was just getting ready to go to bed when the alert came in about your latest blog post, so I sat down to read it, and glad I did so, right now. The timing of this post of yours, well, I am not sure I can even really sum it up in the right words and do it justice.

    Your continual transparency really amazes me, and so much of what you write, translates to so much reality for us who are following your writings and show, etc. It is funny, a few times a week now, I find myself literally making a protein shake or poking my head in the fridge and wondering : “Hmmm… wonder what Amy’s up to today…” etc – then you see something like this and see what you are up to and wrestling with. Literally.

    I have a strong feeling as I believe as I have said in the past, God is up to something using you, to reach so many people, in various ways, it goes way beyond sports. That may be the medium that He originally has used for many of us to connect with you….. but there is something else going on here with you and your life that is being fleshed out here in you…… for SO many to obtain a healing from, or something similar. I know it. It is not even a question.

    I believe your battles and struggles are being used to help the greater good and the masses and you may not see right upfront, a lot of what is going on behind the scenes. To walk by faith and not by sight, scripture says, and your obedience to God in putting this stuff out there, I believe is pleasing to Him! It cannot be easy for you to publicly do some of what you do or say!

    I also believe that these things I say, will be confirmed for you by others independently of this blog post, or our odd FB chat by PM. I know I am thankful for who you are becoming and what you are doing. Wrestling these angels cannot be easy for you, just like in the bible, but we know….. joy comes in the morning.

    Thanks for putting it out there for humanity to see, you know – you are not alone. You continue to be a blessing.

    Again I say, thanks and Merry Christmas to you and all yours, and to your Grammy! (:

    Barry from Canada.

  2. My wife died suddenly in an auto accident. I was devastated. I decided to move from SE Florida to Brunswick Georgia where the only close relatives live & work. It’s a lovely town, way smaller than any I ever lived in. I soon found an ESPN radio station that carried your show. Then suddenly you were GONE. I contacted the station to find that they NO LONGER carry ESPN. Then to make matters worse I received your blog indicating you had moved to CBS SPORTS. I E- mailed CBS for stations nearby that carried your program. NOT ONE STATION was strong enough for me to hear. I then tried to get you on my IPAD. I did but being a techy clod had trouble navigating it so gave up for now.
    I have been wishing for my selfish reasons that you go back to ESPN.
    Meanwhile I will try again to figure how to use radio on my IPAD.
    I KNOW THIS SHOULD BE MY WORST PROBLEM.
    BUT I MISS YOU.
    KEN

    • @Ken Freeman — Download TuneIn Radio app from App Store; super easy to use. Has built-in sleep timer so I can fall asleep listening (not that Amy is boring, I just need my beauty sleep!). And when Amy’s not on I’ve found some great classical stations.

  3. Greg Kotsovllis Says:

    Dearest Amy, I got a message once from the bible and it said don’t worry. I take care of the birds that fly and I will do the same for you. You will always have what you need. Maybe not what you want but what you need. Your treasure is yourself and your powerfully, elegant abilities.

    Your grandmother’s passing sounds very beautiful to me. She was strong enough and mentally powerful enough to ask for whatever she needed but she didn’t. Sounds like she had things exactly the way she wanted.

    When you start your new program on the New Year that’s her program because you are exactly one of the best things she created. As her Granddaughter. you are her.

    Merry Christmas

    May He keep Thee and Bless Thee and Turn His countenance to Thee.

  4. Clay Stanley Says:

    Once again…your words hit home…its amazing how self-absorbed people get, or they lose sight of what the Christmas season really means…

  5. Marvin Bittinger Says:

    Amy: I do have faith that these snags in the road will be worked out by God for you. Merry Christmas! God has a plan for you.

  6. So well said and my sentiments exactly . I believe we must enter the darkness before we do emerge again into the light where all will be well again .

  7. I’ll pray for you Girlfriend! Jesus didn’t have a home and u have 2 so I suspect He knows the right person who needs your extra place. God bless to you, Grammy & family!

  8. Amy, this year was a bit of a rough holiday season; my husband & I were so busy helping his mom & brother that we didn’t have the time to really enjoy the season like we wanted (light viewing, concert attending, etc.). Thanks for reminding me to be thankful to Him for what I have, instead of focusing on what I don’t have. Bright blessings to you for 2015 & beyond.

  9. Arnold Almer Says:

    Amy you are an amazing person with your complete honesty and transperancy. To continue to express yourself in the way you do touches more people than you can imagine.
    Prayers will continue for your grandmother and for your finances by myself and many others i am sure. Everyone who takes the time to read your blog can relate in one way or another. One would never guess that you carry a financial burden because of your radio success. We all carry personal struggles and most of us are afraid to admit them and just suffer alone. You do not and that is why you are so special and God uses you in ways that are unique to you. God bless you and Merry Christmas.

  10. Janet Pech Alden Says:

    My sweet friend Amy. You have a heart bigger than no other. I love you for your endless giving of kindness, love and hope. You have had some real struggles and you always, always, ALWAYS come out on top. You are not one to roll over or give up. You believe in yourself and you stay the course.

    You have a wonderful gift and a true heart and you will find your way, I just know it. I love you and hold you dear.

  11. Max J. Havlick Says:

    Dear Amy, Finding your address tonight, and the first read this incredibly beautiful and touching Christmas piece “Face Value,” . . . .

    Did anyone ever write a better one? I’d like to see it!

    Until very recently, I heard your sensitive, humane, yet responsible audience interaction and sports commentary on some lonesome late Friday and Saturday nights after midnight on Chicago CBS 670-Score. Your promotion to week-night times apparently put you up against firmly established local talent Les Grobstein, and I haven’t yet found you. Maybe I’ll also try the TuneInRadio app.

    To hear that your promotion has put you in financial straits seems unthinkable to me, but I’ll let the CBS top brass know what I think about it! Most large corps have a designated fund to help valued employees in such circumstances; but perhaps you’re just too nice a person to think of yourself that way.

    Obviously I’m not the first person so touched by your radio companionship as to “fall in love” with you, and you’re probably tired of hearing it, but even such words scarcely do justice to the blessing that you are.

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