I meant to post this much earlier; in fact, right after Christmas. So here’s a real neat belated Christmas story.
My friend Linda and her family have a fun tradition on Christmas Eve. They drive around and look at houses with fancy Christmas lights, then they all go out for pie at some greasy spoon. Here’s the fun part: while their tab for the pie might be around $10 or so, they leave an enormous tip for the waitress, maybe $50. They leave before the tip is “discovered” as a nice anonymous gift to a different waitress every year.
So right after Christmas, I emailed my friend and asked her how her annual mega-tip pie excursion went, and this was her reply (posted with permission):
We actually broke tradition and didn't go out for pie this year. We were all tired and didn't want to go back to town. However, the reason for being worn out was a really, really special.
We adopted a family that was in desperate need of basically everything. I heard about them when I was doing some other charity work and presented the idea of giving this family a Christmas instead of us. We are blessed and have everything we could possibly need, so why not take the money we'd spend on gifts for one another and give this family a Christmas to remember?
So I went SHOPPING. And I mean SHOPPING. I needed THREE carts! I bought everything a young family with children might need for Christmas breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then I decided that wasn't enough... I bought them enough food for another week (hamburger, chicken, etc., etc.). Then I bought non-perishables by the cart-load. I got soups and pastas and rice and nutritious cereals and canned beans and canned fruits and canned veggies.
I was on a roll and having the time of my life! I'm serious! I don't think I've ever felt this great! I felt like dancing while pushing the cart! LOL
Then came the fun part..... I'd gotten the sizes of clothing and shoes for the little girls and I went shopping for them! Oh, that was FUN! I got coats and shoes and dresses and tights and pants and undies and bows for their hair.... (these little girls were showing up at Early Intervention with no socks, shoes, or coats when it was 18 degrees outside three weeks ago!) Then I bought them toys that were developmentally appropriate plus a couple of dolls and some stuffed animals. I also got shape sorter tub toys because I remember how much Emily loved those at age three (one girl is three and the other is nearly six, but both are developmentally delayed – the three-year-old still doesn't have speech and just started walking). For the mother I got her a really warm, cozy robe and slippers, new bedding, and a $50 gift card to Wal-Mart. (There is no dad in the picture.)
Then we showed up on their doorstep and delivered all of the wonderful stuff! Emily and I wrapped the toys and clothing for the kids. I didn't wrap the coats and shoes because I wanted them to have those right away. I tried to get Jim to wear a Santa costume but he drew the line at that. LOL
The mother looked stunned. Just…shellshocked. She couldn't even speak. We just kept carrying in boxes and bags after boxes and bags of food and more food and gifts, wrapped and unwrapped. Jim, Emily and I each made at least four trips each. I kept saying to the mom, “This is perishable so you need to put it in the fridge right away” (there was milk, juice, meat, fruit, eggs, etc., etc.) and she just sat and stared so I put it all in the fridge. Talk about a bare fridge prior to me opening it – and when we walked out it was no longer bare!
If she manages the food well there's enough meat for probably ten days and enough non-perishables (such as beans and rice, etc.) for another month at least.
I found this family via a circuitous route. I was volunteering with the 4H group and needed to find a family for our group to sponsor. I was also donating some stuff for Coalition for Kids. I had the idea to ask at the Coalition for a family for our 4H group to sponsor. They had two families that were in very dire straits. They gave me the background on both and I was supposed to choose. Hmmm. How on earth to choose one over the other? I picked the one that seemed the most desperate, at least on paper. After hanging up the phone with the coordinator I just stood there and felt terrible that I knowingly left another family behind. I immediately called Jim but couldn't reach him to get his okay for my plan, but that didn't slow me down because I know his heart. I called the coordinator back and told her that OUR family would sponsor the other family in need. I thought she was going to cry!
We all had SO much fun with this. We have always given a lot to the local food band and Meals on Wheels, etc. I write a lot of checks all year long but especially this time of year.... but this felt SO much better. Maybe because it's personal? That's probably it.
So, there's the whole story. It was truly a life-changing experience. It's one thing to write a check and help from a distance. It feels entirely different to see the people you're helping. Both are wonderful and I'll continue writing checks whenever I can give, but the hands-on is just so... MOVING.
So now you know why we were tired. Well, *I* was tired, LOL. Plus I needed to work on pies and rolls because we were having company on Christmas so it all came together to keep us home. Someone didn't get their gigantic tip, but a family got a whole lot more! Yep, we're planning to do it again next year!
Is it any wonder I’m blessed to call this woman a friend?