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I recall a frosty early morning around this time of year when I was a child. We were in the car headed to my grandparents’ house in East Texas for the holiday, and we’d routinely wake at 5 for such excursions. My brother and I would sit groggily half-asleep in the back seat as we made our way. There’s a lot I don’t remember about this occasion. I don’t recall whether it was Christmas or Thanksgiving. I don’t recollect how old I was. I can’t say whether my father was with us, or not. But the memory of the trip stays with me, all the same.
As we drove, my mother suddenly pulled off the freeway, and descended into an unfamiliar neighborhood, onto unfamiliar streets. This was unexpected. We stopped in front of a house I’d never seen before. My mother got out, took a fully-cooked turkey out of the trunk, and walked it up to the front door. She knocked, handed it in when someone answered, and came back to the car. We kids were full of questions. She explained that this was someone less-fortunate, who wasn’t able to buy their own holiday dinner, and we were helping the family have a special day.
My heart swells when I think of this now, maybe more because she just went about taking care of this family without telling us about it in advance. She didn’t particularly want acknowledgement, and, even though she didn’t use it as a “teaching moment” for her kids, the message sunk in. It was the best gift I’ve ever had a part in giving, even if my role was simply to sit in the car and wait.
This year, we are having our struggles, but we have it pretty darned good compared to a lot of folks. I bawled when hearing about the letters to Santa this year. Instead of asking for big-screen TVs and Wiis, it seems kids are asking for winter coats, shoes, and food.
So, totally late, as usual, I called the local Brown Santa program, the Sheriff’s Department initiative that coordinates requests from those in need, and donations from schools, churches, and individuals. I left a message on the coordinator’s voicemail, not expecting much because it was the 15th, and the deadline for applying to be matched with a family was December 3. So, when the phone rang, I opened with an apology. So sorry for being so late to call, I said. Well, she said, there is one family that had been overlooked. Somehow, their application had gone astray, and they were in danger of getting nothing. It was a single mother, with two young children almost the same ages as ours. When I called the mother, she opened with a request for winter clothes and a coat. I knew it was meant to be, that we were meant to help this family.
And we will. What’s a little unexpected is that this is as much of a gift to us, as it will be to them. It reminds us to be grateful for all we have, and to appreciate the basics like warm clothes, a house and coats. It is truly the best gift I’ve ever given, or been given.
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