Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Giving and Receiving

I'm the youngest of seven kids. Dad was in the newspaper business, a notoriously low-paying pursuit. Money was always tight. We never considered ourselves poor because we always had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet. Our clothes were often shabby and worn and the shoes....oh, the shoes.

I wore shoes that I had long outgrown. I wore them until it hurt to put them on. I wore them until my toes poked out or until the soles split. I wore my sisters' hand-me-down shoes that were two sizes too big. I stuffed paper towels in the shoes and pretended that I didn't notice that they were five or six years out of style. Kids can be mean though and I heard hateful, vicious taunts about my clothes and shoes.

I can afford to buy my own shoes now and have plenty. I still wear them out and wear them long past their fashion-due date because even when I look at my paint-splattered penny loafers I can hear my mom saying, "But they have plenty of wear left in them!"

Ever year, our office adopts a needy family and asks what they want for Christmas. In the past, the lists have included XBoxes, CD Players, Playstations, DVDs, CDs and other flashy gear. Last month, we got an e-mail about our holiday family. It's a single mom with four boys. She's going to a technical college and makes sure the boys go to school every day. On the wish list? No toys or games or movies. The family asked for clothes and shoes. Shoes. When my shift was over, I went straight to the store to buy what I could afford.

When I told my co-workers what I was doing, they stuffed money into my hands. Wads of dollar bills, fives, tens and 20s. Before I knew what was happening, I had collected $150. Today, I spent the last of it.

All four boys will get a brand new pair of shoes and lots of socks. Mom will get a pair of boots and, because all moms deserve a little something extra, she gets a new purse to match. Everyone gets some candy in their stocking, too.

It's not the fanciest stuff in the world and I wish I could have bought them more. I may be kind of stingy with my charitable giving sometimes, but if all you want for Christmas is a pair of shoes? Yeah, I can help you with that. Me and my team, we're more than happy to.


Belinda said...

You are awesome not just for being giving, but for getting out there and doing the legwork on this. That's where I usually fall short. It's so easy to just write a check and mail it somewhere, but it takes a special person to go above and beyond.

Heather said...

I usually fall short, too. I kind of surprised myself with this undertaking. The shopping and wrapping gifts for this family has kick-started the season for me. I'm more than glad to do it.

Karen said...

This is a lovely Christmas giving story. You've done a very special thing, it's one thing to be ready to give cash, quite another to put yourself out. I can just imagine the expressions of delight on the faces of your 'family' when they see their gifts.

jenB said...

This is an incredibly beautiful story and gift. It makes me feel full inside. You are awsome.