Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The spirit of giving

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The holidays are creeping up so fast this year! Am I the only one that is completely blindsided by Thanksgiving? I feel so unprepared!

Normally I like to plan out Christmas gifts far in advance and have the majority of my shopping done before the first of November. I begin my bargain shopping at the New Year’s clearance sales. From then on, I get things in drips and drabs whenever I find an awesome deal that I can’t pass up. By spreading my shopping out over the entire year, it helps save a lot of money for our single income family, and it also saves me from the chaos of shopping during the holiday season.
I have only been shopping on Black Friday once in the past 15 (or more) years. As you can imagine, this was before kids! I consider myself a combat shopper, but I don’t know if I am that hard core! Rather than be up for a post-turkey coma shopping all-nighter extravaganza, I prefer to sleep in, fix some leftovers for breakfast, and casually putter around the house in my robe and slippers.  

I mistakenly attempted to make a quick run to Costco yesterday. I figured that since it wasn’t yet the day before Thanksgiving, it would be busy, but not super duper busy. Well, it was cray cray. Totally insane. The parking lot was so full that people were parking across the street into an overflow lot and tons more cars were circling the lot like vultures. I managed to change course and narrowly escape before I got stuck in the Costco parking lot vortex of terror.
Why do we put ourselves through all of the holiday torture twice in the span of a month? Well, there’s the whole spending time with family thing. Obviously...

In our family we don’t often get to be under the same roof with other family members, and since we have to deal with food allergies it’s usually easier for me to make the holiday meal here at my house. Even though it can be a bit stressful, we always have a fun time.  

But, what is it really all about, Charlie Brown?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist...

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Well, beyond the whole Pilgrims and Indians thing for Thanksgiving and the birth of Christ for Christmas, I think it really all boils down to one thing:  giving.
We want to give a good meal and prepare foods that we know others will like. We want to give our time and spend it in a meaningful way with our family. We want to give something personal to others that we hope they will enjoy. We want to give a smile. We want to give our love.

(And, depending on your family dynamic, you may want to also give a few choice words or gestures along the way! I am definitely thankful that we don't have a lot of drama in our family!)
Do you want to know what meaningful gift I was offered recently?

It doesn’t sound overly special, does it? However, I can assure you that the $27 is indeed very special. Let me tell you why.

Last year (if you were reading my blog back then), you may recall me telling you about how I help run a low-cost, sensory-friendly Santa portrait event. It’s such a joy to be a part of! We recently had our first event of 2 scheduled for 2012. We are always excited to see repeats and marvel at how big the kids have gotten since last year.  
One family in particular, a repeat to our event, has a fairly complicated situation. It’s a hodgepodge of diagnosis alphabet soup, including foster children. And, although the kids were on their best behavior, I know that they are very challenging. I think most foster parents would shy away from the tougher cases, but not this family! For all I know, the mom can leap small buildings with a single bound! She has such grace, and her intense focus and determination keep her working toward doing the best she possibly can for each of her children.  

After she arrived to the event with her entourage, she took me aside and quietly said:
“Do you know of any families that would like to attend this event and cannot pay? I want to help with that. This month and we have an extra $27 and I’d like to contribute to those that need it.”

I stood there with a smile on my face, nodding, trying to focus on what she was saying. Wait a minute...did she just say what I think she said? When I realized the depth of her offer, I wanted to burst into tears at her generosity. She was so touched by her experience with our event that she wanted to give that same experience to others…even though she only had $27 extra for the month. The month!
Simply. Incredible.

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It was such a genuine moment of a giving heart in action. She truly embodies the spirit of giving and serves as an example to all of us.

And that is what it’s really all about.
I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving!    
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