Okay, you guys. This is one of the few blogs in which I will espouse giving away things to people you don’t know.
Today in the grocery store, they had people outside that were soliciting items for the Tacoma City School District. They said that there were kids at their school that were in need and their families didn’t have much in the way of food over the holidays. So I asked them for their little piece of paper that described the kinds of items that they needed, and I headed in to do my shopping. I was wandering up and down the aisles (I am the most disorganized grocery shopper ever: send me to do the shopping for the week and I’ll come home with four gallons of milk (because it’s buy one get one free), three bags of chips and if you’re lucky, some frozen pasta dinners and a bag of rice) trying to find something that would make for a good holiday dinner for some poor hungry kid.
I was remembering my first Christmas on my own after GoodMan and I split. We’d been together five years, and in that time, I got rather used to him taking care of the bills, meaning I was just happy to hand over my paycheck and ask for an allowance now and then. So needless to say, it was a struggle getting back into the habit of paying the bills and making sure everything was taken care of. Plus, I was making pretty much crap wages at the time, and I had a HUGE car payment and what seemed like a huge rent payment, and here comes Christmas and I am flat broke. I was trying to get caught up on all the bills and was totally unable to set aside anything for gifts for anyone, not even The Kid.
Can I express to you how much of a failure I felt like? I didn’t even have a tree, let alone presents underneath it. I was on my last fifty bucks, it was my turn to have him for the weekend, and it was Christmas time. I had no cash to get groceries for dinner, I had no money for gifts, no tree, and absolutely zero holiday spirit. Plus it had been only a few months since the split, so I was a total wreck, both financially and emotionally.
One day at work I was breaking with one of my friends and she mentioned how she was going Christmas shopping, and talking all about all the presents she was going to get, and was asking if I wanted to go. Well, my eyes just totally spilled over and I started bawling. I’m pretty sure that was pretty unexpected to her, total waterworks as a result of a fairly simple, innocent question.
I didn’t feel like explaining the whole story so I just told her that I couldn’t go shopping with her and excused myself to go to the bathroom to clean up.
The next day was the 23rd, and we were supposed to have the 24th and 25th off work. I came in to work that day totally depressed because I was supposed to pick up the Kid that night, I barely had enough gas to get there to get him, and I had nothing to bring him home to. Other than a very empty apartment and maybe a crappy Christmas movie.
The area where my desk was located was in a big square of cubes, with a big table in the middle. It was our day to be exchanging the Secret Santa gifts, and the table in the middle was overflowing with presents, all wrapped up with bows and cards and everything. I was totally jealous, and even more depressed because I hadn’t contributed to that at all. Which meant that I was going to be the only one not giving or getting a present, and everyone would wonder why and think I was some sort of miserly freak or something.
So I tried to ignore the gifts sitting there, sat down, turned on my computer, stuck my headphones on my head, and got to work.
About an hour later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked around, and my entire department was standing behind me. Thinking that it was time for the Secret Santa thing, I stood up and moved back so that they could all gather around and distribute their presents. But instead, someone picked up the first present off the table and handed it to me. I looked at her, a little oddly I’m sure, and then down at the present in my hand, and the tag on it was addressed to my son, from Santa.
Every single one of those presents on that table was addressed to him. All from Santa, all wrapped so beautifully and carefully and with so much love and caring about someone that these people didn’t even really know all that well, and still they’d gone out of their way to go buy a present, wrap it up, and bring it in so that I could give my son something for Christmas.
I totally broke down. Then my boss came through the crowd and handed me an envelope, and inside was a gift card to Safeway so that I could go buy food and have a real Christmas dinner with my child. I have never cried so hard in front of strangers and never felt so humbled in my entire life. I was witnessing what really was the true spirit of Christmas.
So every year, whenever I have the chance, I contribute to the Salvation Army, or the food drive, or the Starlight Foundation that gives presents to sick kids, or kids without homes, or kids that have parents like I was, just struggling to make it through the holiday season without jumping off a bridge out of despair. Because I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like, and I feel like I owe it to the people that were so kind to me to pass a little of that kindness on.
So that’s what I’m encouraging you to do this year. It doesn’t matter what charity or organization you pick, or what you can contribute, even if it’s just your time and energy instead of money. Just think – it takes like, what, $10 for a fun toy at Toys R Us? That’s two Starbucks coffees to me, and a HUGE difference to a kid that doesn’t have anything else. For that $10, you’re also expressing your awareness of how much we all are a part of this world, and the larger community of the human race, and you can’t put a price tag on that.
Pretty good deal for ten bucks, I’d say.