When I was growing up, we had very little during those many years my dad was starting and growing his own business. He did well, had a successful career, and recently sold his business and retired, making a pretty buck, or many. But I still remember the days when I wore the cheapest of clothes from the cheapest of stores. I didn’t think much of it, and I always had a favorite dress I was very sad to out-grow.
During these lean years, my mother always found ways to give to others. She loved to bake, and bake well, so she made tons of homemade goodies at Christmas. It didn’t cost much; it was a labor of love; and she received much joy in giving. (I’d go nuts if I baked that much at one time every year.)
There is one Christmas, though, that will always stand out in my mind. I can see myself, old and senile, forgetting my own name, and yet remembering this one hour of my life.
My mom searched for a needy family – a truly needy family. And she found one. There was a family who escaped from some country (I do not remember the details). The were living in a very cheap, one-room, hotel, with a small kitchenette. There were the dad and mom and children – three, if I remember correctly. My mom went to the same cheap stores we shopped at and bought clothes for all the children and both parents. She bought groceries. And she prepared a Christmas meal. All of us went together one evening, after dark, to deliver Christmas to this family.
When we arrived, there was absolutely no food in the fridge or the cabinets. I’ll never forget that. I do not remember their faces, but I remember the people. I remember that they were thankful and peaceful. I remember that they were not bitter or angry. I remember that my mom gave them the gifts, put the food in the fridge, spent some kind minutes with them, and we left. They had some mattresses on the floor to accommodate all of them. It was a very small room. But they were very gracious and very grateful.
I’ll just never forget it. If memory serves me, my mother did more things for them, including recording this man’s story of escaping from somewhere with his family. We didn’t have much, but my mom always gave anyway.
I think that is the one thing I am most grateful to my mother for modeling. I don’t think she ever did it with the purpose of modeling for us kids. I think she did it because that is who she was, who she is.
I have always looked for ways to help. With a special needs kid, I am always limited. But I am always grateful to do what I can when I can, knowing that it is my best. This holiday season I was asked to join a private group where families could share their needs, ask for help, pray for one another, share praises, and encourage one another. It’s only been up for a week or two, and already I have been incredibly blessed. Deeply blessed.
There are families out there who have lost most everything – careers, homes, vehicles, family, and all savings and income. They work whatever jobs they can find and pray that God continues to keep a roof over their head and one car working to get to and from these jobs and food on the table. They are hoping for one, maybe two gifts for their kids this Christmas. Some are weary and feeling defeated. Marriages are strained, faith is being pushed to further boundaries, and parents’ hearts are breaking over what their children are having to go through. Some are even asking for such simple things as toilet paper.
One mom asked if anyone had a specific doll for her daughter. It’s expensive new, and they are miles away from even thinking about purchasing it new. But, my daughter has one. And she’s outgrown it. And she was willing to give it away rather than sell it (even though she could make a pretty penny off it and buy tons of stuff for her family and herself for Christmas). We had a few of the doll accessories and have it all boxed up and ready to mail … along with some things for the younger brother, some specific things which we actually had.
Mom is crying. They’ve been so wounded by the church, abandoned by family. They’ve lost long-term careers. They’re living in a very small space. Their hope diving rapidly. I’ve read to my girls what this mom has written in gratitude and how these simple things – things that will only cost us shipping – are changing her heart, filling her soul with joy, and giving her hope, once again. My girls are seeing this, experiencing this, and began to find other things they could give away! We now have several boxes to take to the post office on Monday, and my girls are so excited!
This isn’t anything new in our home, but it never gets old and always brings such fresh joy. It has been so much fun picking out things for children, who would have close to nothing otherwise, that my girls have totally forgotten to put up the Christmas tree so far! (I’m not complaining – the scrooge in me is happy, happy, happy!)
It is amazing how filled with love and joy and hope and faith we become when we give what we have, when we can, with a generous heart.