We make a living by what we get . . . but we make a life by what we give.
His eyes were serious but kind, as he reached to firmly shake my hand. His blue flannel shirt was half tucked in and his thick, mostly white hair was windblown and maybe a little long for a man his age. He was clearly on a mission. It’s the Christmas season; a time when most children are making lists, checking out new gadgets and leaving not-so-subtle hints for their parents about what they’re hoping to find under the tree. It’s also a time when parents anticipate that magical moment when their child unwraps “the gift.”
He’d been thinking about the women and children at the Ada Carey Shelter. Admittedly, he wasn’t all that familiar with the facility, hadn’t been there and had no idea how many we housed daily. But he has children of his own, albeit grown now, and he remembers well Christmas mornings and the delightful squeals that made all the shopping, wrapping and assembling totally worth it.
“What about those ladies,” he asked me. “Don’t you think they would prefer to shop for their children like other moms do? “Of course, they would!” I said. So many of them arrive with nothing or with garbage bags of whatever they could grab in a hurry and toys and such are not high on the “get the heck out of Dodge” grab list. “Well, I want to give them that,” he said flatly, then smiled. “How can we make that happen?”
After a spirited discussion about cash versus gift cards, we concluded that getting each mom a gift card for each child would be best. Neither of us was up-to-date with the current toy trends, but after doing a little research, we came up with a reasonable amount for each child. “Fine,” he declared and he jumped up and headed for the door. “I’ll get them and bring them here with your name on the bag. This conversation never took place and no one needs to know who bought the cards. That’s just between you and me. Got it?”
“Absolutely,” I said, already imagining how excited our residents were going to be. He was about to leave when he suddenly turned around and popped his head back in my door. “But what about the ladies without kids? Can’t leave them out. They should have a Christmas too. Tell you what. I’ll get a gift card in for each of the ladies. Then they can get something for themselves or whatever. How’s that?” “Perfect,” I said, “that would be just the sweetest thing!” He headed out the door with the same mission driven shuffle he had coming in, but I knew his heart was about to burst with joy. I could just tell.
The next day, the receptionist called and said a guy just dropped off a bag for me saying simply, “she’ll know what this is for.” Inside the carefully folded paper bag were all the gift cards he promised the day before. It made me giddy since our shelter is very near capacity right now.
Years ago, when my Aunt passed away, my dad called and asked if I would send red roses to her services for him. He was disabled, living on a tiny pension and could barely afford his own living expenses. I was happy to do it for him. As our conversation ended, he told me something that still haunts me today. The greatest wealth a man can ever have is the ability to give to someone else.
The generous man who provided gift cards for our shelter women gave them so much more than money. He gave them the ability to give to their children. Now, that’s a beautiful gift.