Just what do I mean by the “other side of giving?” To put it into context, I’ll need to tell you my story.
Like many of you, I consider myself a humanitarian. A philanthropist. Since high school, I can remember enjoying the act of giving. I think it started Labor Day weekend 1979, when my best friend and I door knocked collecting for MDA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Jerry Lewis telethon.
We turned in our money at the local tv station, then sat by the tv eagerly watching the main tally board grow to surpass the previous year’s giving. Just knowing we played a part in affecting those numbers, no matter how small, made us feel good.
A few years later, when I had kids in school, I’d purchase several turkeys and other dinner items, then would take the grocery bags to our school principal so she could distribute to the families she knew were in need. Through the years I’ve given coats and other cold weather wear. I’ve given hot meals, coffees and cocoa to needy people standing on busy street corners.
But some of the most rewarding times, were the years my kids and I sang Christmas carols at a senior living community. We’d watch our audience snap their fingers, clap hands and bop along. There was a sparkle in the people’s eyes and they’d often assist us by singing along. Each year, I watched their tears well up. There really was no better feeling… Except for the many times I saw one of our kids wipe tears from their own eyes in response. Every year, we’d complete the evening at our neighborhood coffee shop with a tasty treat of hot chocolate. My children still recall these times with sweet fondness.
One year at my weekly business meeting, I suggested we adopt a family over the upcoming holiday season. Later that day the president of the group, Trish, called asking if I’d had a particular family in mind, because she did. She asked if I’d mind if she took the lead. No, I definitely didn’t mind her running the show!
As each weekly meeting passed, Trish told us a little more about the family we’d adopted and although I wasn’t able to afford to purchase anything new, as my own financial circumstances were poor that year, I did find a wool coat in near-perfect condition in my closet. But when I offered Trish $10 from coins I’d turned in, she smiled, gently pushed my hand back and said, “It’s okay, I know you can’t afford to do this.” Knowing she was right, I hugged her, wished her a Merry Christmas and returned the bills to my near empty wallet.
My financial circumstances that year had put me behind with just about every creditor and utility company I had. I hadn’t answered my telephone in nearly a month and needed to call the heating company to avoid disconnect.
Before making those calls, I decided to take a few minutes to do some meditation. I knew making those calls would be difficult. So, I went to my room, sat on my bed and breathed. About 40 minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Fearing it was a creditor and hoping they’d go away, I ignored it. The knock came several more times before I finally answered.
A sweet smiling face of a beautiful woman greeted me. She said simply, “I’m here to deliver some gifts.”
Learning to Accept
“You do? Who are you?”
“That doesn’t matter,” she answered.
“Who are they from?”
“That doesn’t matter either. But I’m to tell you there are many people who love you very much. Merry Christmas.” She placed gifts bags on the porch and turned to leave.
“Wait!” I took her hand and pulled her into an embrace. “Thank you so much.” I watched her disappear around the corner of the house, closed the door, then sat on the floor beside the gifts. I peeked inside one bag catching a glimpse of what was inside.
Money! Tears came as I pulled a lovely wreath from the gift bag. Among it’s silver and red ribbons, dollar bills were fanned out and attached as well. Bills of all denominations… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Also inside the bag was a stack of gift cards and some decorative tins containing wrapped candies, cookies and even more money. I cried. Hard. Hunched over, forehead on the floor, sobbing. I mean, “can’t breathe, snot running sobs.”
When all the money was counted, the total more than covered the disconnect, as well as several other bills. Tears continued the rest of the week. I used the gift certificates to purchase gifts for my children. Even as I write these words, tears are flowing again.
Thankful For Others Giving
I knew these gifts were from my business group, and we were the family Trish talked about all those weeks. So, I called to thank her.
“For what?” She not so innocently responded. “By the way, no one in the group knows it was you,” she added.
Every Christmas season, I hang that special wreath on the front door and tied an ornament inside it’s greens, a golden angel, as a reminder of every one of my friends who gave to me that year. Every one who gave so generously.
I’m definitely not accustomed to being on “the other side of giving” to that degree. That year’s gift still means more than anyone could ever know. I give a silent toast every year on Christmas… To those who gave to me and to those who give to so many others, I would just like to say, “Thank you my Dear Friends. Thank you.”