Last night I went with the youth in our ward to pick out Christmas gifts for a family who could use a little help right now. Every year, our ward uses donations for this Santa Project to help a family or two at Christmastime who is struggling. And it is a highlight for the kids involved and I know a great blessing to these families too.
I hadn't realized till I was walking around Walmart with a few of the young women looking for 'girl size 10 winter clothes' how...weird? mixed-up? much?
I was also feeling about the whole thing.
Going to sleep last night, I had all these childhood memories and thoughts buzzing around in my head --
Of coming home on a late December afternoon and finding a red envelope full of cash on our doorstep. (Or was it hand-delivered? I think it was hand-delivered...) And how Jen and I went to Walmart and picked out some necessities we knew Mom would appreciate (but probably not buy) before we surprised her with the rest of the money and our gifts.
Of opening our front door on a late December evening and seeing our porch full of packages and feeling so loved and so blessed. Who would be so kind to think of us and know we needed a little help?
Of opening our front door on another year's late December evening and again seeing our porch full of packages and feeling so ashamed. Who thinks we need a little help?
(we do) What if my friends found out
? (what if these gifts are from them?)
Of watching the door on another late December night, listening for a knock, hoping, wishing.
Of sorting through boxes and bins at the Sub for Santa warehouse, filling orders for other families - a book, a doll, a dump truck, let's add something extra just to make it feel a little special for them...
Of walking through Walmart (there's a theme here :) with church friends and filling our cart with surprises for another family. Look at these darling baby clothes!
Of one Christmas Eve, driving far from home to find a little trailer - one light shining above the door. And stepping inside with my Dad - his Sub for Santa sack filling his arms, and seeing the tears of a mother who had set out all she had - a few small stockings - across their foldup couch. Who was still trying to figure out what she'd say to her children the next day when they woke to see - this is it
. And how full of gratitude she was for that very last minute delivery, and how I saw maybe I was one of the lucky ones.
I should be doing something!
Followed by all those other thoughts about is this really the best way?
Like how it's important to help people in a way that they have ownership in working through the hard times. Or serving in ways that build up the recipient and gifting in a way that preserves dignity.
Or how maybe we are giving a great gift, but what about the mother who spent all Christmas season just wishing she could go and pick out a few things for her children, and so she is grateful for these generous gifts but also ashamed that a stranger - someone who doesn't know how her child would light up to see that certain special thing - chose those gifts instead of her.
Or how the next year when things are a little better and that family is in a better place, but then Christmas comes again and the memories are close of those piles of packages filling the space under the tree, with overflowing generosity, and now there's just that one special toy, and the warm socks and the brand new boots. Which feels like everything because of all the other things that money could have been used for
, but then on Christmas morning it also feels like this is it
I feel like now's the spot where I wrap this up with the lesson I've learned and the new insight I've found...
I have a rule for myself and this little blog of mine. After I put Isaac down for a nap, I come and write my blog. And then I get to go have lunch. (Which means lunch is waiting right now... :)
I struggle to know what the 'right thing' to do is sometimes with all these complicated thoughts swirling around in my head. I am so very grateful for a lifetime of kindness from others - for all the good things - little and great - that have been done for me, for my family. And maybe sometimes the good we try to do will be the just perfect thing at the just perfect time. And maybe sometimes not. But it's still right. Yes?
I wrote this yesterday, but decided to let it sit for a while so I could think a bit more (since my lunchtime deadline had already passed :)
So here’s what I think today, which I think is mostly the same but I feel more certain than yesterday. It’s always going to be the right thing to help and love and serve. Sometimes it’s going to be messy and complicated and awkward and maybe even just a little mixed up or weird — just like everything else we do - (we’re all just doing the best we can y’all.)
Always, but especially at Christmastime when every day you hear another way you could give or serve... I kind of tend to just say no because I'm overwhelmed with all the things, all the needs. But after sitting with this for a day or so, this morning I hurried to get through our morning jobs so I'd have a little extra time. And I sent that email to offer a little help - even though I felt embarrassed about how long it took me to just do it.
I still have all those thoughts swirling in my head - and especially the “is this really the best way?” Probably not, but it's something!