Thursday, December 20, 2012

Goodwill Toward Men

A jar of "warm fuzzies"
A little bit of a longer, more sentimental post today, but I think we're all feeling a little more sentimental for various reasons these days. I don't often wax philosophical, because frankly, it's a lot harder to write something deep. It's way easier to say, "Look at this pretty fabric..." and distract you that way. But I've had these thoughts for a while and felt like it was time to put them down on cyber "paper." So bear with me on this one. And if it's not your thing, I totally understand and I'll be back next time with another crafty-quilty project.

I have to admit that about a month ago I was having a hard time getting excited for Christmas. Not an Ebeneezer-Scrooge-bah-humbug kind of disdain, but in more of a Charlie-Brown-sick-of-the-commercialism kind of way. I was walking through Target a few days before Thanksgiving and I just felt yuck. Too much hype about black friday deals or just buying stuff. It made me dread the Christmas season instead of being excited for it. Especially when I thought about my kids. They have enough stuff and I knew that stuff wasn't going to make any of us any happier in the long run.
Cookies not from Martha Stewart Living
So I vowed that we would not have Christmas be about "what comes from a store" but make Christmas be about "a little bit more". We needed to make Christmas about other people - specifically, loving our neighbor.

I'd had an experience a couple of months ago that taught me a profound lesson. I was going through a patch where I felt misjudged and misunderstood by some individuals and it totally made me grumpy, if not angry. One Monday morning I had just dropped my kids off at school and was thinking of the huge 'to-do' list I needed to tackle that day when I noticed my single, elderly neighbor across the street trying to rake her leaves. I looked at her and thought, "she needs help" but rationalized about how much I had to get done that day. 
And then my conscience worked on me some more and I set my list aside and went out to help bag leaves. By the time I got there - much later than I should have - another friend was already there helping. We got the leaves raked and bagged relatively quickly. It was a gorgeous fall morning and I thoroughly enjoyed that time visiting with my neighbors. My older neighbor was so happy and grateful we had offered to help. But I guarantee you, I was the one who benefited the most that morning. By far. When I came back home, it no longer mattered what other people thought and my frustration and burden were gone. I felt happy and back to myself again.

So I knew that helping my kids have experiences doing something for other people would make Christmas much more special for them than a new Lego set or an Itunes gift card. (Don't get me wrong, I'm all for presents at Christmas time, I just don't want it to only be about presents.)
As part of the motivation we started a Warm Fuzzy Jar (see top). This is by no means a new idea - I've heard it lots of places, but I share it in case it's new to someone. I bought some fuzzy pompom balls from the craft supplies aisle and when someone does something good - even if it's totally simple like saying Hi to an extra person at school or not calling their brother annoying - they get to put a 'warm fuzzy' into the jar. There are much cuter variations on this theme, like Calli's felt heart ornaments, but if all you have time for is the fluorescent puffballs for 1.97 at Walmart, that's good enough.

We also call this "giving presents to baby Jesus." Because he is the Birthday boy after all. And since Jesus doesn't really need a new bike, what he really wants is for people to love and help each other, those are the best presents we can give. Acts of love and kindness.
And then the events in Newton happened last week. Talk about putting life and what's important in perspective. I'll be honest, I can hardly even skim the news reports about that horrible event because it makes me so incredibly emotional. Even sitting here typing is making me tear up. It hits extra close to home because I have a 6-year-old in the first grade. I can't even fathom the grief those parents and that community must be experiencing.  Just going to my own children's school this week for their Christmas program, I kept getting weepy seeing those precious, innocent children and thinking about not only those whose lives were cut far too short, but those who will bear emotional scars for the rest of their lives.
"You are the beast teacher ever."
And it's especially sad to have happened right before Christmas. But ironically, it also puts Christmas in perspective. If Christmas is about sales and shopping and stuff then it sure feels pretty hollow right about now. But if Christmas, or Hanukkah, or any meaningful holiday, is about family, and kindness, and loving our neighbor, and "peace on earth, goodwill toward men" then it is definitely richer and more significant than ever. 

Thank you again my friends for visiting this blog. Whether you celebrate Christmas or other special traditions, I send you love and well wishes for a happy holiday season with those you love most.

And with that, I will share with you a video that has been my own version of Linus this Christmas season:

If you are looking for ways to support the Sandy Hook and Newton communities check out Sarah Jane as well as the the Quilter's Corner in Connecticut and their pillowcase drive. If you are looking for a quick pillowcase tutorial visit Sew Deerly Loved. It's so slick!

68 comments:

  1. Thank you, the warm fuzzies jar made my day.

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  2. I went and saw the Piano Guys last night in concert. Love them! And I like the idea of a warm fuzzy jar!

    Have a merry Christmas!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts ~ they are beautiful!

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  4. Thank you for your beautiful post :) Merry Christmas!!!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your heart. Merry Christmas!

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  6. Amy, you put into words everything that has been going through my head and heart. I have a 6-year-old first-grade granddaughter and I can't even think about losing her. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such a meaningful and well-written way. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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  7. Very nice post and I really enjoyed the video.

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  8. This was a very good post, I like the idea of a warm fuzzy jar.

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  9. Very special Amy and felt the same by many!

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  10. I have struggled for the longest time, trying to place what is in my heart, into the written word. You communicated so much of how I have been feeling, so eloquently. Thank you Amy. My feelings run so deep this year, and yet I have posted mainly quilty, sewing, sorts of posts. I just can't seem to match my heart to words at this time, as much as I wish I could. I so seldom cry, but this past week has brought me to such a tender place. If I hear Christmas music I cry, or see a news brief of the most recent angel who has been laid to rest, my heart breaks. I am thinking also of how Mary was given such a gift from God, who one day, she would need to release into the hands of humanity, so that He would fulfill His purpose here on earth, such love, I can not wrap my mind around. As much as I try.
    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas dear friend. Thank you for the adorable fabric you mailed. I will cherish it and create something lovely, and think of you. love you. Trish

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  11. ps. Warm fuzzies are going on my shopping list. :o)

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  12. Amy--Thanks so much for writing this. You are such a wonderful, sincere person. I don't know how anyone could do anything but adore you. I admire you so much and want to be like you when I grow up. Have a wonderful day.

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  13. Hi, Amy

    Great post and thank you for reminding me. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    Hugs,

    Vanessa

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  14. Thanks so much for sharing this!! The video brought tears to my eyes--beautiful!! I am always inspired by your blog, but have never written a reply to thank you for sharing of yourself -- Thank you! I hope to make (well at least start) my own thankful quilt this year...has been so meaningful to think of the words I will write on it, a kind of legacy to leave my family. Have a blessed Christmas!!

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  15. I love the "giving presents to baby Jesus"! That makes perfect sense to me and just hits me in a good way. My 4 little kids have been so grumpy this week and I keep thinking about whether the mamas in Newtown had good mornings with their babies or if they sent their kids off to school with the stop-fighting-with-your-siblings kind of morning. I think we will have a big talk tonight about the gifts for Jesus. I really love that, so thank you, that's really going to make a difference for us.

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  16. Thank you so much for posting this, Amy -- I have been feeling EXACTLY the same way this year. I couldn't even get motivated to decorate, and was dreading the neverending LEGO wish lists, the shopping, the stressing about money and gifts and will-they-like-its and did-I-spend-enoughs and did-I-spend-too-muches. And although my kids are a little older than yours (4th and 6th grade), my 8-year-old brother passed away a few weeks before Christmas when I was a freshman in high school, so I know how those families' grief is magnified in their silent homes where they should be hearing giggling and excitement from little ones, how their decorated trees make them feel sick to their stomachs and each wrapped gift beneath its branches is a stab in the heart, containing a gift for a child who is no longer there to open it. At least my brother's death was natural -- he had a congenital heart valve defect that had gone undetected by his pediatrician. So it was shocking and devastating, but at least he did not suffer and we did not have the additional anguish of knowing your child was lost to random, violent madness, and that his or her last moments on earth were ones of terror and despair. Those families are very much in my heart and in my prayers this Christmas.

    Thanks for the idea about the Warm Fuzzy jar with gifts of kindness for Jesus. I LOVE that -- I wish I had known about it earlier; what a wonderful way to refocus Advent on preparing our hearts and minds for the gift of Christ's birth, instead of letting it turn into a shopping marathon! I'm saving this idea for next year.

    Wishing you and your loved ones a safe, spiritually centerd, and very joyful Christmas!

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  17. Wonderful post. Christmas IS about helping and loving one another.

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  18. What a beautiful post, Amy! I'm terribly prone to getting bogged down in my "To Do" list. You've inspired me to set it aside for a bit and make a pillowcase or two. I hope you and your family have the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years!

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  19. thanks for reminding us all to take time out of the hustle and remember the little things. Merry Christmas to you.

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  20. Well said. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  21. Thank you so much for your post. I was in the Christmas spirit this year until Sandy Hook. It hit me really hard. I have a kindergartener and all I could think about was what it would be like for that to have been her class. I can't imagine the heartache those families are having to bear. I hope the spirit touches them and gives them peace and that we can all hold our families a little closer in our hearts and arms and help each other this holiday season.

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  22. I love your warm fuzzies and I love this heartfelt post.
    I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.
    Carol xx

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  23. We had our Christmas concert last night and it was wonderful! All those little faces singing from their hearts! My son and fellow school mates had the opportunity to do something for the Angels of Newtown.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5YNS6FlUDc&feature=player_embedded
    I think it's just going to be a very weepy, thankful, Merry little Christmas this year ;)

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  24. This is a beautiful post Amy!!! And I love that video, I think I have watched it 30 times since it came out :)

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  25. Thank you for your lovely post from a spot close to Newtown.
    It is very sad here.

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  26. A beautiful post Amy - may you have a warm and fuzzy Christmas surrounded by family, friends and neighbors.

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  27. Hello, you are nominated by Midwest Mary for the One Lovely Blog Award. You can see your nomination here: http://midwestmary.com. If you wish to accept this nomination the rules are to: 1. Thank the blogger who offered the nomination; 2. Post the One Lovely Blog emblem on your blog; 3. List seven random facts about yourself; 4. Nominate fifteen other bloggers for the award. Send a message to those nominees informing them of their nomination.
    If this isn’t something you wish to do then please just think of this as a compliment to your blog!

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  28. Merry Christmas to you and your family :)

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  29. Merry Christmas Amy. You're right, it is much easier to write about our creative outlet then to delve into our feelings and hope to convey our deepest sympathies and intentions. But thanks for doing the hard thing today. It resonates with me.

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  30. You know, every time you put pen to paper, I am moved by your words! Thank you for such a beautiful post. Here's to a heart warming Christmas to you and yours x

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  31. Thank you, and may the holidays be everything you want/need them to be :)

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  32. Preach on, sister! I've been trying to involve my 5-year old granddaughter with all the charitable things we do at Christmas time, like bringing food in for needy families, taking a child's name off the Angel Tree and purchasing gifts for her, and buying "birthday presents for Jesus" that will be distributed at our local elementary school - hats, mittens, gloves, school supplies, and gift carts. I'm hopeful that she'll remember these things as an integral part of Christmas - giving, not just getting!!

    Have a wonderful, merry, Spirit-filled Christmas, Amy!!

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  33. Well said, Amy! Thanks for the lovely post and the Warm Fuzzy idea!! Wishing you and your family a loving and merry Christmas!!!

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  34. Very meaningful post and video. Helps me so focus on what Christmas is about. Thanks for sharing your heart. Glad you were willing to do that. I needed it a lot! K-

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  35. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart, Amy. You have touched mine, and many others, I'm sure. Wishing you and your family a beautiful Christmas season.

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  36. oh Amy, what a beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and words. The tragedy in Connecticut makes me cry. Those poor, sweet children and their teachers. And the life-long pain for their families. It definitely puts things into perspective, as we gather our families in close at Christmas time. I am going to start a warm-fuzzy jar - I hadn't heard about that idea before, so thanks for sharing it. I am sure we have some pom-poms floating about the craft-buckets, so I will go gather them up. I loved your 'not from Martha Stewart' biscuits too - they are just like ours, which are also, not from Martha Stewart! Have a very happy, peaceful Christmas, filled with the love of family. May God's rich blessings be yours. Cat x

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  37. Great post that we should all take to heart!
    adaisygarden.com

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  38. Beautiful post, and thank you so much for sharing the video.
    I love the idea of a warm fuzzy jar -- and treating those colorful fuzzies as gifts for Jesus. You're a really good mom.

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  39. If you crochet there's also a way to help the Sandy Hook students.

    http://snappytots.blogspot.com/2012/12/beanies-for-brave-students.html

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  40. Wat a perfect post. That about sums up how I am feeling exactly. Made a few pillowcases today to send off, and felt great for it. I have a quilt that needs finishing for Christmas, but you know what? I can wrap it up half done and finish it later, the recipients will still love me and I NEEDED to make some pillowcases today. Your warm fuzzy jar is a wonderful idea, may borrow that! And I hope you are not TOO opposed to presents....sent you a little something earlier this week from a shop that should be arriving any time, made me think of you. Hope you enjoy! Merry Christmas, Amy!

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  41. Thank you for the very thoughtful post. I feel the same way. And the video was lovely.

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  42. Thank you, Amy. I feel like you spoke for many of us. Merry Christmas!

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  43. Hi Amy, thank you especially for reminding us who the "birthday boy" is. The world goes so crazy after that which does not even lasts till next Christmas, that we must remember that which lasts for ever. Merry Christmas and much love to your whole family

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  44. Thank you so much for this, it was a really heartfelt post, and I too have a HUGE to-do-list today, but I know I need to just think about what is really important, and everything else can just wait. The video brought tears to my eyes, a combination of the images and amazing music. As a Christian I try to make Christmas about Christ, but sometimes things get a bit mixed along the way, and your warm fuzzy jar is a great idea. When my children are older I really want to give this Random Acts of Kindness Advent calender a go as I found it really inspiring too. http://katherinemariephotography.com/blog/archives/7437
    I hope you have a blessed Christmas with your family.
    x

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  45. A really beautiful post Amy and one that I truly appreciate. I too felt the same way before Thanksgiving and although the season hasn't turned out quite like I had hoped thanks to a sick kiddo, it hasn't been too bad so far. Having both kids' birthdays right before Christmas doesn't help with the To Do list at all. My son's class uses a warm & fuzzy jar and I think for the new year perhaps we will have one here at home too. Thanks for the idea. Merry Christmas!

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  46. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your heart, I needed to read that today. I recently came across something that has made a difference for me and the way I try to live my life. Just google "the birthday project" - it is all about random acts of kindness, which we can do any day, not just on our birthdays. Important lessons to learn, as well as teach, especially if we have children. God bless you and your family this holiday season.

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  47. What an honest heart felt post. I too have a first grader and get emotional every time I hear the news stories. It definitely put things in perspective for me since that very morning I was rather frustrated with her because she was dawdling and I was trying to get to work-not one of my finer moments. Since then, I've made sure to hug each of my children before they leave and let them know I love them.

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  48. Thank you for this beautiful post! a Very Merry Christmas to you and your family!! Love and hugs from Holland.

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  49. Thank you for sharing Amy, that truly was beautiful! It's so great that you recognize and instill this in your children. Wish more moms out there did that!

    Fawn

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  50. I have been feeling the same way...and this is our first official Christmas with the GBs...I just put a tree up last night...
    I had totally lost the focus of the season with all that has been going on.
    Thank you for restoring my holiday/birthday spirit...
    Merry Christmas...and to all a good night.

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  51. I turn my pillow cases in last night for "Sandy Hook Elem" our local store is collecting until Saturday to help out. Such a sad time for our country. Thanks for your post

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  52. I love the idea of the warm fuzzy jar :o) I really do hate the commercialism of Christmas, of hearing my colleagues discussing the obscene amounts they're spending on their other halves and kids, the parties, the drinking til you drop (actually that might be a British thing), the music shop down the road from my office literally blasting music so loudly from speakers outside their store that I can't hear the audiobook on my iPod that I listen to on my walk to work for a month before 'the big day', the madness around food shopping and... oh humbug ;o) You're right though, it should be about spending time with others, helping and giving of ourselves.

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  53. Merry Christmas to you and your family Amy.
    When our kids were elementary school age, they made mangers out of Popsicle sticks and every time they did a good deed during Advent they would put a little straw in the manger so Jesus would have a comfy bed on Christmas morning-thank you for the gift of the 'memory jog'!

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  54. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. With my family being newly Anglican, Advent has helped us slow down and put things in perspective.

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  55. Thank you for sharing your not so perfect cookies! I am blessed knowing that other people are not quite as worried about their culinary creations as I am! Merry Christmas!

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  56. Amy, thanks for sharing. This was a really lovely post. I'm filling in tomorrow in Relief Society and I hope you don't mind if I share your leaf raking story. It really touched my heart.

    xo -E

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  57. Amy--lovely post! I love the warm fuzzies! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  58. Last year I felt so Christmasee. Not this year.
    I could not put my finger on it until I read your blog. Yes it was Walmart saying that they will be open Thanksgiving. All of the store SALE, SALE, SALE's. Finish it off with our representatives in DC continually fighting, just so the other guy gets nothing.
    Remember when only the 7-11 was open on a holiday, and Sunday.
    We are not commercial at our house. We baked for gifts, we have gatherings with our friends and family to celebrate the holidays. We only buy gifts for the children under 18.
    If others did not partake in this craziness, it would not exist. Pass it on.
    Sincerely...Karengcg

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  59. I know that feeling of thinking of your child when you think of the tragedy that occurred last week... except that our child is all grown up and teaches 6 and 7 year olds. I think of her, knowing that if she was placed in the same situation, she would do whatever she could to protect the children in her care and I try not to worry. So many, many things have occurred in the past year, both personally and in the outside world that have given me a completely new perspective. Hubby and I have stepped back from celebrating Christmas this year and that too has given us a completely new perspective.

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  60. I enjoyed your post about what makes Christmas real.....I try to have Christmas spirit every year but I am not always successful. As a grandma with a 4 year old granddaughter I can only think how each child's murder in Newtown echos out in each family to the grandparents.......my life would be unbearable without my little granddaughter. I can only pray for these families who have lost a child I feel such grief for them all. I hope everyone practices random acts of kindness all year and remembers that Christmas and living are not about what you have but what you give.

    Merry Christmas

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  61. Well said Amy. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  62. Your warm fuzzy jar is absolutely wonderful! I am not a mother but I am a teacher and an aunt to a wonderful little boy so the events of that day are horrific beyond words. I don't think you can call yourself human and be unaffected by it. I agree that it has put Christmas into perspective and reminded me of the really important things.

    I'm wishing you a very Merry Christmas, full of peace and hope!

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