I have joined a fantastic group of ladies, who are involved in a weekly blog project. Every Thursday, we will dazzle you with our insight on various topics. And each week, we take turns coming up with the idea for the blog topic. Please check out their blogs as well, listed under my Blogroll section. Just click on:
Froggie (Tracey): An experiment in knitting, writing- and life
Merry Land Girl (Melissa): Tales of a suburban mom who likes to talk about pop culture, books, Judaism, family, friendship and anything else that comes to mind.
Mom Of Many (Susanna): One Mom’s perspective on life, raising kids, knitting and other unrelated topics.
This week, Tracey chose: “Try walking a mile in their shoes”; for our next topic talk about a time you finally experienced circumstances you never had before which helped you understand what someone else was going through. What effect did that experience have – Were you more sympathetic towards that person? More humbled? Or, did it not change your opinion at all?
Years ago, while living in Arizona, I worked for a company who would adopt a family every Christmas- purchasing food, donating gifts. We would be given a family who was down on their luck; they couldn’t afford to have Christmas, and that’s where we stepped in.
I absolutely hated it.
I wanted to help. I know it feels good to give. Yet I was struggling with my past, and where I’ve been. Most of my childhood was spent on welfare. My parents were divorced, and although my father paid child support every month (and did the best he could with what he had) it certainly wasn’t enough. My mother chose not to work, and we relied on government assistance. Many times, and not just during the holidays, my mother would sign us up for food boxes, for gifts donated. Other times we’d drive over to Salvation Army, and look through the pantry there.
I was goaded into traveling with my co-workers, to drop off the gifts and food we’d purchased. I was fine to be anonymous with the whole process, but we were to be a united front, which is completely understandable. I just didn’t want to be around a family and remember how it felt to receive those handouts. The pity in someone’s eyes. The look of remorse on their face as they pressed a wrapped gift into the palm of your hand.
We arrived at the family’s home, modest but no where near what you would consider “poor”, as some would assume. The house was clean and well kept, nicely furnished. A fir tree sat decorated in the living room, no presents underneath. I knew this scene all too well. The father sat on the couch, looking distant, cast on his left leg, crutches lying on the floor. He’d broken his leg, and had been out of work- and lost his job in the process. His wife offered us beverages, as we stood around, most of us wrapped in fancy work attire, others carrying Chanel purses.
The children sat on the floor, looking nervous, and embarrassed. This hadn’t been planned. Their father never chose to become injured, or to lose his job. These were decent, hard working individuals, and in one stroke life had dealt them a lousy hand.
And here we were, reaching out- and I can’t speak for those who were with me that day, but I know not once did I feel as though this family was some worthless poor trashy group who were just looking for handouts. Somewhere in my youth, I associated my life with that one, and I realized in that moment that there was nothing wrong with ME back then, and nothing wrong with this family, now. Certainly nothing wrong with me or my co-workers, wanting to make a nice Christmas for a more than deserving family.
I grabbed the box of presents and sat myself next to the children, one a pre-teen, the other two preschoolers. I smiled and asked their names, and started handing out each gift, one by one.
It was a wonderful afternoon. I hope we made them feel as good as I felt. I hope over the years, they’ve been able to pay it forward and have helped others who have needed it along the way.
I know I will always try to.