Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Charity

I want to share a story with you.

Many years ago, we were a large family on a small income. We had about $150 to buy presents and feed 6 children and two adults for Christmas. My husband and I told each other little lies to help each other get over the fact that if Santa was going to come, there would be no presents from Mom and Dad that year. Trying to plan a Christmas dinner with what money we had left over was an emotional nightmare.

A friend of mine put our names on a charity list so they could bring us a Christmas Dinner in a box and some things for the kids. I had no idea she did it. If I had, I would probably have begged her not to do it. But, here they came, backing their truck to my front door and preparing to unload Christmas into our living room. I have never been so humiliated and thankful in my life. I didn't know if I wanted to open the door or hide in my bedroom.

There were three of them. Two men and a woman. It was all I could do not to cry. They hauled box after box up to my door where I picked them up and hauled them to my kitchen. With every box, I asked questions. "Why are you here? Who put us on the list? Are you sure you need to give us that much? What about the other people on your list?" Their boxes of food filled my kitchen floor and there were two very large boxes of wrapped presents standing near my tree.

Just before we left, the woman that was with them stood in my door and took a peek into my living room. I watched her eyes set on my empty tree and glance around the room where we had one futon and a console TV. When her eyes met mine, I was incredibly embarrassed. I could see her taking inventory of our poverty. I wanted to say something that would excuse the sparseness from her viewpoint, but I couldn't think of anything. All I could say was "Thank you very very much."

Thanks to their charity, there were gifts under our tree for the kids to shake and make guesses about the contents. We used the money we were saving for Christmas dinner to buy more things to fill the stockings. We ate for weeks on the food that we were given. I think it was the fullest our pantry had ever been when we lived in that house. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Running into those people after Christmas was over was horrible. They had seen a part of my life that I never wanted to share. No, I didn't sit around drinking our paycheck away. No I didn't gamble. (We lived in Nevada ) No, I didn't spend money on pretty furniture and pretty clothes. Yes, I was just plain broke. While I am sure they felt pretty good about giving it to a family that "deserved" a break, it was humiliating to have to see "that look" on their faces months later.

I tell this story because I want to send out a message to anyone that is thinking of giving gifts or food to a needy family.

If at all possible, give anonymously. Let it be your little secret when you see them in the neighborhood. You know you did it. God knows you did it. Who else matters?

If you have to give your donation in person, do not wait for a "Thank you." If you need to be thanked, you gave for the wrong reason. The person you are waiting on may have nothing but pride left. Don't take that from them in trade for your gifts. Let them keep that too.

Be mindful of your reactions. If you give a box with a judgmental face, it decreases the value of the gift as well as the act of charity.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or even a wonderful winter day.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Girls

A friend of my husbands uploaded some pictures from Afghanistan. This one in particular captured my heart. It didn't really occur to me why until I started sketching.

These two could easily be my girls. I have one that is always smiling and being friendly while the other is much more quiet and serious. It is funny how we attach our experiences to the images we see. Sometimes we don't completely realize how much.

I don't even know if these are sisters, but in my mind they were. I don't know if they talked to the soldiers that were taking their pictures, but in my mind, the older one started jabbering while the younger one tagged along listening quietly. I can't tell you if I was more captured by the photo or the story I concocted while I sketched.

I like the general look of this sketch. I think the composition holds together pretty well. This might be worth drawing up on nice paper.