As a teacher in the Bangor School District, I have decorated my classroom for various holidays, including Christmas, for the last 30 years.
For many of the first years I taught, I decorated with a real Christmas tree complete with reindeer, stars and an angel topper for my students. But in recent years, due to the political climate, I have instead decorated with a pink Hello Kitty themed tree that I found at a local hardware store as a way to be more “inclusive” with my decorations.
To me, the pink tree was more of a fun decoration that all of my students could enjoy than religious statement or symbol, and it’s my favorite color! It had no religious ornaments on it at all – just pink Hello Kitty ornaments.
But after 10 years of decorating with the pink tree, last year I was asked to take it down because my principal thought it favored one religion over others.
As many people do nowadays, I took to Facebook and posted how sad I was that in the guise of being tolerant of everything, we have become intolerant to absolutely everything – even a pink Hello Kitty tree that my students and I greatly enjoyed.
And boy oh boy did people notice. The story almost immediately went viral, appearing on national broadcasts like Fox News, Buzzfeed and Reddit. Suddenly my little pink tree in Bangor, Maine became the face of the “war on Christmas.”
The tree ended up being a wonderful blessing and a great learning experience for my students. They learned that with respectful dialog, people within a community can come to an agreement on controversial issues.
They have also learned to be cautious of what you post online. I thought only a handful of my friends would see my post, but then the story went nationwide.
It has helped inspire them. I tell my students to look at all the good this one little tree has done and it inspires them to imagine what they can do!
By this point, this little tree has become more than a simple decoration. It has been the vehicle for a valuable conversation in Bangor and beyond and I want it to continue to have a deeper meaning, so I began wondering what I should do with it this year.
As an advocate for veterans, I attended Goodwill’s Little Black Dress event where they held an auction to benefit veterans in need through their emergency fund set up to directly help veterans.
One story that touched me was of a single mother struggling with PTSD. She had been having a difficult time keeping a job because of her disability. Just when she finally found a job where she was comfortable and able to provide for her family, her car broke down. With no money to repair it and no way to get to work, she was ready to give up. That’s when Goodwill stepped in and lent a hand. Soon her car was fixed and she was able to get to work, keeping her family together.
And while I listened to this woman’s story, along with many others, it finally occurred to me. The tree! This little tree that won its war on Christmas in a big way could be auctioned off to raise funds to help those in our military that have fought real wars to keep us safe and free!
So hurry up and place a bid on this little pink tree before 6:22 p.m. this coming Monday to support our veterans, and share on Facebook so that your friends do too.