A woman I know is going through a difficult divorce from a dead-beat soon-to-be ex who hasn’t worked regularly  in years.  She has been looking for a job, but so far has only been able to find part-time work.  She was concerned about finances this Christmas, and worried about her young son.

Every year at Christmas, I want to do something to help someone else.  I don’t have a lot, but sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference.  But every year I waffle and flounder and don’t know what exactly to do, and don’t end up doing anything beyond stuffing dollar bills into red kettles.

This year, I knew.

Out shopping, I perused the toy sections of the stores for just the right gift for my friend’s young son.  When I saw the wooden pull train, I knew I had found it.  I bought it, brought it home, and asked my husband to wrap it while I got ready for work.  He asked me what it was, so I told him the story.  He was choked up, and made a comment about buying something for the boy.  I wasn’t certain; this wasn’t an anonymous stranger but rather someone I worked with.  Much as she might need the help, she might also feel beholden or uncomfortable.  I was hesitant, and said that I thought we were OK with just the one gift.

I went to work and, as husbands are wont to do, he ignored me.  He took the kids out and they went slightly nuts in the toy aisle, buying one toy from each of them for the child they had never met.  DH later told me that he had to restrain them as they gleefully picked more and more items that they thought the boy might enjoy.

Not satisfied with just the presents, they all decided that he might need a stocking.  So they bought him one, and then proceeded to fill it.

When I got home, my son couldn’t wait to tell me all about everything they had bought for the boy.  I was so touched, but also worried about the mother’s reaction.

When I told her what had happened, she was both moved and slightly embarrassed.  I knew how she felt, having been the recipient myself of a charitable “gift” recently.  Like I said, times are tough all over.  As much as you might need the help, sometimes it can be difficult to acknowledge the need and accept the help in the spirit in which it is offered.  I managed to, eventually, as did this woman, who sent a lovely note thanking my family that I have printed out and pasted in the kids’ Christmas journals.

Next year, I will not waffle, nor waver.  I plan on doing some research well in advance of the holiday, and having an action plan all worked out for our charitable giving.  I saw the magic it worked on my family as well as the recipient’s, and selfishly, I want to see that magic again, and make it a part of my children’s lives.  I want them to always remember the reason for the season, and to know the true spirit of Christmas.