A blanket of snow covered most of Indiana yesterday afternoon and through the night; I’m not complaining about the snow, unlike about 4,950 people on Facebook yesterday. I didn’t understand that. Why were they so taken back and disgusted by the snow? It’s late November in the Midwest.
Stick around. Next week we’ll likely hit 65 degrees, hear baby birds singing and smell tulips.
Though we've not officially hit December I suppose the holidays are truly upon us. I’m a big fan of this time of year, as are most people, I guess.
Driving home from one of the grain elevators the other day I began thinking of Christmas shopping. I’m not good at this planning. While I usually end up pulling off pretty good gifts for my loved ones, these gifts are usually derived from a random thought I have at about 11:47PM a week before Christmas. Guess I work well under pressure. Thankfully, so do my handy friends who have spent many a late night in a frigid garage helping me prime and paint - more to come on that.
On that same drive home from the elevator I thought back to a story I was told several years ago while I was not yet in high school. It struck me back then, and I say with confidence that I’ve thought of this exact same story every single holiday season since. A story that certainly changed my way of thinking, perhaps it will yours, too...
I remember that Christmas well. I was probably only 11. Maybe 12. But I was the oldest and so sort of a second mother in my family. I was mature for my age, and just getting into a place where I realized there was much more to life than what I had experienced.
I remember Dad got laid off right around Halloween. I guess I wasn’t too scared or worried about it. We still had Halloween. We went to church, we prayed. Mom always had food on the table and I always had clothes to wear. We all did.
That Christmas I remember sitting in church and hearing a lady talk about the angel tree that was going to be set up at the back of the church. The point of the tree was to take a tag that described an anonymous needy child and their “wish list” for that Christmas. We were to buy the gift then return it to the church, who would make sure Santa delivered it Christmas morning.
What a great idea.
That summer before that my allowance increased to $7.00 a week. I never spent my allowance; secretly I saved every penny. I kind of figured if I wanted a car when I was 16 I was going to have to pay for a big part of it. So I saved.
And it was because of that frugal attitude at 11 or 12-years-old that I was able to make the decision to choose a tag from the angel tree. But I wanted to wait until the next week so I could go home and count my allowance savings - then I’d pull the perfect tag.
I remember driving home after church that Sunday in our Astro minivan and both Mom and Dad discouraging me to choose a tag. They said that tree was more suited for people who had steady jobs, full time jobs, who could spare the change to buy extra gifts. I sort of shrugged off their advice - though I was a bit disgusted by it! At that point, they had no idea the money I had saved, almost $120 dollars, from my allowance. And I wasn’t about to tell them; I had two little brothers in the van.
The next week I chose a tag from the tree.
I went to VAL that December and bought a funny VHS movie for the needy child. Feeling really good about the decision I made to help out another kid, I remember tucking a note inside, written on Lisa Frank stationary, encouraging them to keep their head up; better times for their family were just around the corner. It’s funny now, looking back, how I thought I was some kind of motivational Secret Santa! The next Sunday, feeling quite proud and maybe a little mature and special, I dropped the gift off in the angel tree bin.
Two hectic weeks passed before Christmas finally came and quite honestly I had forgotten about my good deed.
Until Christmas morning.
When I unwrapped a funny VHS movie from Santa - with a note inside, written on Lisa Frank stationary, encouraging me to keep my head up - better times for my family were just around the corner.
I never, ever had any idea we were poor until that moment Christmas morning.
And I was never so thankful for parents who worked so hard to never let us kids know how bad things really were for our family.
Each time I remember her story I have to smile - with a tight throat and maybe a misty eye! But I love it - the beauty of the holidays. The irony in life. And the blessing of having incredible parents.
Yesterday I posted on Facebook inquiring about the angel tree locations in our area; this was not by coincidence. If we’re “friends” (what does that even mean anymore?!) make sure you check out the long list of local angel tree locations folks compiled on my wall in response to my post.
If you’re not in this area, I encourage you to find an angel tree in your community and give back to those families who need it this year.
We may never know the significance of our simple acts of kindness.