Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Best Gift Is Helping Others

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I've had the chance to get several amazing gifts over the years, from my Strawberry Shortcake dolls when I was five to a replacement for my stolen engagement ring a few years ago. I've always tried to give as good as I get, though, and I've managed to find several perfect gifts for my loved ones.

But the best gift I ever gave would have to be one from Christmas 2008. It was a rough year for us - Aaron had been laid off earlier in the year, leaving us with no full-time income. By Christmas we had blown thru our savings, and while we were in no danger of losing our house thanks to family, we were still living with only the basics. It made me really consider what was a need and what was a want, and it made me extremely grateful for all we did have.

Out of nowhere, we received an anonymous Christmas card in the mail - no return address, no signature - and enclosed was $100. I couldn't believe my eyes, as this was more cash than I had seen in months. My daughters could have Christmas gifts from us!Yet in my heart I immediately knew what to do with at least part of it.

Just weeks before I received this card, I discovered our local YWCA family shelter was in need of supplies. They were asking the public for baby supplies - diapers and formula, especially, but also lotions, baby wash, etc. - as the cold weather and recent economic downturn (that we would later realize was the start of the recession) had the shelter filled to capacity. This shelter is the only one in our city where a family can stay together, receiving job services, tutoring for the kids, and family support until they can get back on their feet.

While we were running very short on wants, these people were short on needs. It only made sense to divert some of my unexpected gift to help this shelter. I ended up using most of that $100 to buy diapers and formula, and also asked friends at Johnson & Johnson to help by providing samples of baby wash, lotion and powder, which they were happy to send me.

I then loaded the back of my SUV with everything I had and took it to the shelter. They were so appreciative for the supplies, telling me that they sometimes have less than a day's worth of diapers to go around. Looking at the families gathered in the common area, with small children playing with well-worn toys while their parents watched with sad eyes, I knew this was the right choice to make.

It felt great to provide a gift that would genuinely help someone in need. And by participating in this act of giving, I was reminded of just how lucky I am for all that I have.

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