The Mom Chronicles: Gratitude and Generosity
Merry Christmas. All the anticipation, the preparation, the hustle and bustle. It’s all finally about to be over as the anticipated event, Christmas, is finally here. If you are like me, my Chronicle Moms, the arrival of the holiday comes with mixed feelings; relief to have survived and sadness that this season is soon to be over. As hectic and stressful as it can get, especially as a mom, with all the cooking and baking and shopping and wrapping, and holiday programs and parties, seeing it come to an end is somewhat a sad sort of thing. After all, as crazy as this season can get, there is absolutely nothing like it. The lights. The hope. The joy. The anticipation. The generosity. Oh, the generosity. For whatever reason, this is the season that truly brings out the best in people. What does not inspire others to give the rest of the year, seems to at Christmas time, and if ever a time to see what our fellow man is made of, now would be it. And so it is with great sadness that I welcome the holiday, and bid it farewell at the same time.
There are few times when I sit to write this column that I really struggle with what to say. This is one of those rare times but not because of not knowing what to say, but because of what it is I am going to share. You see, this Chronicle Mom is also human. That means capable of feeling things like embarassment, guilt and shame. And as I struggle to share what it is I am going to share, I know that I do it because in doing this column I have made a commitment to all of you, to be open and honest, and not to simply share that which is easy. And the fact of the matter is that I know that my sharing holds the potential of being a great gift to some of you. And for that, I write you this column, wrapped with the ribbon of my heart and hope that it can be the gift that perhaps you are in need of this holiday season.
Generosity. This is a subject I touched on in the opening lines of this column, and what this holiday addition of the Mom Chronicles is all about. Generosity, and also humility. This year, like for so many of you, this mom found herself in quite a predicament. Here I am, basically the sole provider for my kids, newly unemployed, living on short term disability while seeking treatment for depression issues that run deep, with out help paying for child care and basic needs such as food and rent, and with a three year old who has suddenly learned what it is to believe in Santa Clause. You see as many people have been busy crossing people off of their Christmas shopping lists, I have been shuffling funds just trying to figure out how to pay rent and daycare and all the other daily necessities of my children. It was no wonder then, as the weeks turned to days and the countdown to December 25th seemed to gain speed, I was forced with a very difficult decision to make. While I full heartedly believe that Christmas is about giving and not receiving, the all important Santa and gift concept to a young child is one that can’t simply go unnoticed. And while it was suggested to me to simply celebrate the holiday at a later date when I could swing it, I knew this was not something as a mom I was neither willing, or able to do. And so last week I made the very difficult drive down to Hastings Family Service. Several “One last things” that unexpectedly came up and sucked up any hope of having any funds for gifts for my kids sort of pushed me to this decision. I would not be the one, after all, who would explain to my son on Christmas morning, that Santa did not make it to our house this year. And so I made the call, and went in and got our names on the list.
This is the part of the story I am most ashamed for. You see, as I was greeted by the kind folks at Hastings Family Service, I felt shame, embarassment. I hoped like mad that none of them would recognize me from my picture next to my column, for certainly no one could know that this Chronicle Mom had let her kids down so deeply as to have to resort to relying on others to bring them Christmas this year. So I kept my face to the ground, kept a low profile as I thought “Please no one notice me, please no one notice me.” Until it dawned on me, how wrong was I. As I watched other moms come in behind me, if they were feeling the same way they certainly were not showing it. Shame on me, I thought. Shame on me. And what was funny, not funny but ironic, was that I did not look down on those other moms as I did myself. I did not look at the other moms signing their kids up and think, “Gee, what a loser. Can’t provide your kids with gifts? What kind of a mom are you?” No. Quite contrary. Instead what I thought as I watched the other moms was “How great are you? How selfless? Your kids are so lucky!”
You see, who was I to be above needing such help? How great of an image must I have felt I needed to hold to feel such shame in asking for help? For the first time this mom who has never associated herself with having an elevated sense of self got it smacked in her face.
This past Friday afternoon I got the phone call from Hastings Family Service that our food and gifts were ready. When I went to pick them up I was overwhelmed. As I watched them carry towards me huge gift bags packed full of gifts for me and my kids, I was speechless. And then came the food. Seven bags of groceries, and a turkey. There was literally no room left in my car by the time I got done packing it all in. And the thing is, they have you write a thank you note right there on the spot for the family that sponsored you. I was somewhat taken a back. I could barely collect myself enough to understand all that was being given to us, let alone be able to pull my thoughts together enough to be able to give a meaningful thankyou, and yet I did my best. What do you say, afterall, to someone who extends such generosity? What do you say to someone, to the family, that has given your family the holiday they other wise would not have? How do you thank anyone for the look you caught on your childrens’ faces when they came home to see the mountain of gifts under the tree? Thank you, quite frankly, does not feel remotely suffice.
My family was family UU. I share this not only to thank the family that so generously supported us, but to share with you other moms who also have a number or letters that were given to keep you anonymous in signing up for assistence, my famous montra that you are not alone. No one is above needing help or bad things happening. The shame that I felt in not being able to support my family that I can assure you so many of you also felt, is not necessary. Do not punish yourselves with it. For you, you are great. You were willing to step outside yourself and your pride to give your kids something that they will never forget- a Christmas! A hope! A Belief in that something greater. And while it may have been hard or disheartening and perhaps you felt as if I did, those feelings should only be replaced with feelings of pride and humility. We are all human. We all need help sometime. And while the gifts under the tree were not bought by you, they are there BECAUSE of you. And do not be afraid to tell your children as I have mine that we are SO lucky. We are SO lucky that someone loved us SO MUCH to give us all of these great things. And perhaps one day, you will be able to return the favor and do the same for someone else.
Generosity. Gratitude. These are the two greatest themes I will walk away from this holiday season with. Yes we have talked about twinkle lights and trees and snowflakes and all that is this time of year, but none of these things measure up to what it is to experience the generosity and kindness of the human spirit that emerges this time of year. And I can only hope and encourage you to extend this generosity and giving the rest of the year.
Now, as for me and my family by the time this comes to press we will be settling in under the tree getting ready to open our gifts so generously given by some family out there that loved us enough to give. And while I wish I could capture that moment and send it out to all of you, instead I will hold it close to my heart and I will forgive myself for feeling so proud, and with my children give thanks for a greater good. And we will be thinking of those of you other Chronicle families out there doing the same.
From my family to yours, I wish you a truly blessed and joyful Christmas.