Finding purpose during Advent

Advent is at hand. It is the season of anticipation as we draw an end to another tumultuous year on planet Earth.

I find that both ironic and a touch melancholy. As we approach the winter solstice, a celebratory light should brighten the darkness. Yet, for too many, the light is dim or nonexistent. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Our western world is aglow and abuzz with glitzy television commercials, flashing, and sometimes gaudy light displays in keeping the season. But of what honor is gaudiness when so many among us are sad, tired, distraught, hungry, homeless, and helpless?

Enter Advent. It is the antithesis of the holiday commercialization that pounds our senses in nearly every aspect that the marketing Mad Men conspire to throw at us. We lust for gold, frankincense, and myrrh 21st-century style.

Perhaps we need an epiphany before Epiphany to set the holidays aright. We seem to have turned the once admired axiom, “It’s better to give than to receive” on its head. We need to right the ship before we sink.

Though an exclusive Christian tradition, Advent is an inclusive, active, intentional, iconic time for all. Advent is as much an action as it is a prelude to Christmas. In truth, Advent’s meaning far preceded any contemporary applications.

More than a preparation for “God is with us,” some biblical scholars believe that Advent was 40 days of fasting leading up to Epiphany. That shines a new perspective on an ancient holy day.

I apologize for the sermonette. I hope that with these few words, others will also catch Advent’s meaning of watchfulness, alertness, love, peace, and service.

There is no room in the inn during Advent for greed, power, position, wealth, riches, avarice, and hate. Contemplation, meditation, prayer, thoughtfulness, charity, humility, and assistance to those in desperate need purposely fulfill the Advent message and meaning.

So what’s my point? Back in our former home, Holmes Co., Ohio, Share-A-Christmas was always an excellent first start on the eve of this holiday season. The annual community goodwill effort of providing for the needy set the stage for even more opportunity to personally be kind and generous.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in the wealthiest country in the world can do a world of good more for those among us who are truly low in spirit. Slow down. Take time to notice who they are and where they are. Opportunities abound all around.

Once aware, be bold, and take the next step. Do so in some personal way that satisfies an immediate need for others. It’s really not that difficult.

When it comes to charity and generosity, spontaneity seasons the gifts. Practicality wraps them, makes them intimate.

Here are a few starter suggestions: Visit the sick. Send a note or card to those in nursing homes. Honor the widows and widowers with nothing more than your listening ears. Meet people where they are.

Though too humble to say so, my good wife set a perfect example for us last Christmastime. As we drove our vehicle toward a red light in downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia, on a cold and blustery night, we noticed a homeless woman holding a cardboard sign on the corner sidewalk.

I offered a bottle of water that I usually carry for such an occasion. When Neva saw that the young woman had no gloves, she instantly reacted. Without hesitation, my wife peeled off her own gloves, and I handed them to the woman.

Advent presented itself, and Neva responded. How can we likewise let our light shine in today’s darkness?


© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Helping children find a better life

By Bruce Stambaugh

Joe Heatwole, 33, of Dalton, Ohio went to Nicaragua to help a friend inspect some land and came back with an idea to help scores of children.

Heatwole has turned that idea into reality thanks to his own hard work and the help of several others. The production manager at Valley View Oak near Mt. Hope put his management skills to good use.

Joe Heatwole by Bruce Stambaugh
Joe Heatwole displays a bag of Better Life Coffee.

While visiting in the rural Nicaraguan mountains, Heatwole saw the needs of many poor and orphaned children. He was determined to help them if he could.

He came up with what he thought was a logical solution. Americans love coffee, and San Marcos, Nicaragua just happens to produce great tasting, high altitude, shade grown coffee that is low in acid.

Better Life Coffee was born. The name reflects the purpose of the mission.

“If you can help a child,” Heatwole said, “you never know their potential.”

The conditions Heatwole saw in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in Central America, drove his passion to help.

“What I saw was a life of hopelessness,” Heatwole said. His hope is to raise enough funds by selling Better Life Coffee, which is labeled fair market coffee, to build a boarding school for up to 60 children.

Heatwole said there would be six homes built for the children, three for boys, and three for girls.

“We don’t want to westernize them,” he explained. “We just want to give them a good education.”

Heatwole, who was born in Alberta, Canada, said local people would be used to build the boarding school. He said the goal is to have the construction completed in a year.

While waiting for a plane at the airport in Managua, Nicaragua, he randomly met Bill Sullivan, who works with indigenous tribes there.

“Bill is looking to translate the Bible into their native language,” Heatwole said. “He also wants to start a coffee plantation for them.”

Coffee berries by Bruce Stambaugh
Shade grown coffee berries ready to be picked.

With Sullivan’s support and contacts in Nicaragua, Heatwole was able to put his idea of selling coffee into action. First, though, he and his wife, Heather, decided to dip into their own savings and purchase the first 960 pounds of coffee.

Since the coffee beans are shipped green, Heatwole needed to find a place to roast the beans. He turned to the proprietors of Wallhouse Coffee in Sugarcreek for advice since they roast their own coffee. They agreed to store and roast the coffee as needed.

Heatwole said Better Life Coffee is a recognized nonprofit company in Ohio.

“That means that everything earned goes to help the children in Nicaragua,” he said.

Heatwole’s philosophy is simple. “Since most people drink coffee,” he said, “why not have your money go to a good cause?”

Better Life Coffee by Bruce Stambaugh
The label says it all.

He said the coffee may be purchased at Jitters and Surplus 61 in Millersburg, and at P. Graham Dunn in Dalton. The coffee can also be ordered online at Better Life Coffee on Facebook or by emailing betterlifecoffee@gmail.com. Whether whole bean or ground, the coffee sells for $11 a pound.

Heatwole sees selling the coffee as a great fundraiser for youth groups. He said he plans on leading a group of interested persons to Nicaragua early next year so they can see firsthand what the needs are there.

Heatwole said the goal is to raise $10,000 from coffee sales. Others will help raise additional funds through different channels to complete the boarding school, according to Heatwole.

Another crazy year comes to an end

By Bruce Stambaugh

No matter what society you live in, news is an important element of belonging. As social beings, we have an innate need to know. That drive manifests itself differently in different people.

I enjoy the human interest stories that tend to consistently run beneath the mainstream media’s radar. Here is a sampling of some of those lesser known but equally important stories of 2010 that I came across.

Jan. 22 – A half-pound meteorite crashed through the roof of a doctor’s office in Lorton, Va., landing just 10 feet from the doctor, who was working on patients’ charts.

Feb. 9 – The Mortgage Bankers Association sold its building for half the amount it had paid for it, and decided to rent.

Feb. 14 – A pothole delayed the Daytona 500 race for two and a half hours.

March 31 – Minnesota Twins leadoff hitter Denard Span fouled a hard line drive into the stands in a spring training baseball game, hitting a spectator, his mother.

April 5 – Twin boxers Travis and Tarvis Simms were arrested for getting into a fight with each other in Norwalk, Conn.

May 10 – A farm in Oklahoma, where scenes from the movie Twister were filmed, was hit by a real tornado.

May 17 – It took Jack Harris of Shepton Mallet, England, nearly eight years to complete his 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, only to discover one piece was missing.

June 9 – Researchers revealed the discovery of the world’s oldest known shoe, a 5,500-year-old single piece of leather laced up the front and stuffed with grass, which was found in a cave in Croatia.

July 13 – Keith McVey, a mail carrier in Akron, saved a man’s life by performing CPR. Two years earlier McVey saved a teenage girl from drowning, also while delivering his mail. He had saved yet another man’s life 20 years ago.

August 10 – A report on the state of health of Americans revealed that, on average, waistlines have increased an inch per decade since the 1960s.

August 11 – A contractor marking a school zone in Guilford County, N.C., committed the ultimate typo by painting “shcool” across the road.

Sept. 14 – When 5-year-old Andrew Polasky won a moose-calling contest held at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, his mother said she wasn’t surprised because her son “is good at making a lot of noise.”

Sept. 26 – James Heseldon, 62, owner of the company that makes the Segway, died when he accidentally drove one of the two-wheeled scooters off a cliff near his estate in West Yorkshire, England.

Oct. 6 – National Geographic research linguists in northeastern India found a new language, Koro, still spoken by only about 1,000 people.

Oct. 24 – Jonathan Byrd won the PGA Shriners Open in Las Vegas, Nev. with a hole-in-one on the fourth hole of a three-way playoff.

Nov. 4 – A retired Canadian couple revealed that they had given away to family and selected charities all but two percent of the $11.3 million they had won in a lottery in July.

Nov. 12 – A study showed that people who take notes, scribble, or even doodle while listening have better memories than those who don’t.

Dec. 11 – A report by http://www.Forbes.com listed Ohio third in the nation for people moving out of the state. New York was number one.

I wonder what interesting stories 2011 will bring?