In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at booklocker.com or amazon.com.

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In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at booklocker.com or amazon.com.

Joanne Palmer: Giving season extends past holidays

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Joanne Palmer

Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at jpalmer@springsips.com

Find more columns by Palmer here.

— The cashier asked a woman, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

My friend replied, “Yes, I just gave Christmas to a family with young children. They didn’t have enough money for Christmas, so I bought them a tree, gave them some of my old ornaments, money for Christmas dinner and bought presents for their kids.”

“Wow, how nice,” the cashier replied.

On the way to her car, my friend felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to find another woman, a complete stranger, holding a $20 bill in her hand. “I overheard your story,” she said. “Please take this money.”

“I don’t need the money,” my friend replied.

“But I will use it to buy more diapers for the family.”

My friend is not wealthy. She has a son, and they have decided to make and give each other one present and help other people instead. She is looking forward to the music CD he will compile for her. He will dog sit for a family who is going out of town and look forward to whatever she makes for him.

I was humbled.

Isn’t that the spirit of Christmas? Isn’t it about lifting our heads up from the computer screen and away from the smartphone and giving whatever we can? It doesn’t have to be monetary. It can be as simple as a smile and as heartfelt as a hug. It can be a loaf of banana bread to the tow truck driver who pulled you out of the ditch a few months ago, the man who wakes up in the middle of the night to plow your driveway, the friend who picked up your sick child from school when you were out of town. It can be about taking the time to pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. It can be writing a thank you note to the doctor who met you in the emergency room when your child was running a fever, and you were in a panic.

I recently met a man who had a second job. This is not unusual in Steamboat. What was unusual was that he didn’t need the income. He worked the second job to give money to friends of his who are struggling. At Thanksgiving, he delivered a smoked turkey to the police department and another one to the fire department. “I know what it’s like to work on a holiday,” he told me.

I was humbled.

The other day, I found myself obsessing about the Kindle Fire. I spent more time than I care to admit holding one in a store, admiring the color screen and daydreaming about all the books I could download and read. I left the store, sat in the car and thought, “Do I really need this?” and the answer was, “no.”

I’ve already made my New Year’s resolution: I need to do more for others and less for myself. I need to remind myself that the giving season can extend past Christmas.

So far, the best part about the holiday season has been cutting down the tree with my family. We spent some quality non-electronic time together on Buffalo Pass on a beautiful sunny day cutting down a tree. After it was decorated, we played cribbage and listened to Christmas music.

As for my friend, she has opened up her house to another family who was about to be evicted from their house. She is sleeping on the couch and generously has offered them her bedroom until they can get back on their feet.

Once again, I was humbled. And inspired.

I hope you will be, too.

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