Cochrane poet of healing verse shares Christmas memory

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 17, 2008

Ruth Hamm, of Cochrane, is a poet and publisher of inspirational greeting cards. Photo by Warren Harbeck

Coffee companion Ruth Hamm is a dedicated greeting card poet and publisher. At this holiday season one card, in particular, provides a nostalgic insight into the youthful days of this delightful 11-year resident of Cochrane.

“The Christmas season takes me back to my childhood years ago,” she writes in “Christmas Memories”:

Though years have passed, the memories remain
as though it was yesterday.
For Christmas seen through the eyes of
a child will never fade away.

Before joining her on an especially memorable Yuletide morning when she was only seven, however, let me share with you some background on Ruth and her company, House of Ruth Publishing.

Born into a pastor’s home near Warman, Sask., the 12th of 15 children, Ruth experienced such warm love that she never felt sorry for all the stuff she didn’t have. They had no electricity back then – just sunlight in the daytime and kerosene lamps at night. Obviously, there was no central heating, either, and the six-foot snowdrifts outside punctuated the chilling shock of getting out of bed in the morning.

Those were the days when she attended the one-room school house across the road. At Christmas, it had a tree with home-made decorations, including popcorn threaded into a garland. It was there that she had her introduction to music and the joy of words.

It was also during those struggling days that she developed the sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others that ultimately led her, as an adult, to compose her first greeting card verses some years ago.

The young son of a missionary family had died suddenly. “I felt compelled to write a poem for the bereaved parents,” she says. “I’ve always found a need to express my sympathy to people who are hurting.”

Others, increasingly aware of her gift of writing poems for special moments, began asking her to write for them, too. Finally, seven years ago she established House of Ruth Publishing as a vehicle for sharing her poetic notes, carried locally at Flowers by the Petal Pusher.

“I like to write cards for situations you don’t normally find cards for,” she says. Yes, she writes cards for birthdays and anniversaries. But she also creates cards for the loss of a pet, or to celebrate just plain getting older.

“My slogan is ‘Speaking life into every situation,’” she says. “We can use our words to wound or to heal, and I really want to use my words to build, not to tear down.”

All of which brings me back to Ruth’s Christmas memories when she was only seven:

. . . on Christmas morning, we awakened
before the fire was lit.
The floor felt like ice but we ran downstairs,
hoping there would be gifts.
Our dolls which had been missing, were there
wearing brand new clothes!
The boys played with miniature farms –
when did Dad get time to build those?

By now the fire was roaring, and Dad the
Christmas story would read.
We scrambled to the breakfast table, though
we wanted to play, not eat!
I never realized at the time that our family was
considered poor!
For the memory of that special Christmas,
even to this day endures!

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

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