The topic for the December 12th installment of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by Thomas MacEntee is: "Charitable / Volunteer Work. Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women’s shelter during the holidays? Were you able to make the holidays special for someone less fortunate?"
To my knowledge, my family did not participate in "charity" work at a soup kitchen or shelter. However, if a family in the neighborhood was in need of anything, we and the other neighbors all contributed what we could. The Salvation Army gets my change whenever I see their red bucket and bell ringer. Goodwill gets my clothes that I no longer wear, and I contribute in other ways too. Nothing special or out of the ordinary.
But one year, we needed help. In the fall of 1988, my sister and her new husband decided to move to Florida where his sister and mother lived. She had two girls at the time, 15 and 14 years old, both going to school, but that didn't seem to matter. Anyway, they were in Florida about six weeks when we got a phone call. The girls couldn't get into school and my sister and her husband couldn't find work.
To make a long story short, it was November when the girls came to live with my mother and me in an old farm house we'd bought the previous year. We had some trouble getting them back in school but finally made arrangements. The problem was, they came to us with just a small suitcase and the clothes on their back. Neither mom nor I were making much money at the time and basically were getting by paycheck to paycheck. We had no idea how we'd manage. But word got out to our neighbors and co-workers and we received coats and clothes and other things the girls needed. We were relieved and very grateful.
Christmas seemed to come quickly that year. Money was still tight, with little left over for anything except necessities. I'm not sure how it happened, but a few days before Christmas a couple of ladies in a van pulled into the driveway and started carrying boxes up to the back porch. We had no idea who they were but they had boxes filled with wrapped gifts for the girls along with several boxes of groceries. They wouldn't tell us who they were or what organization they were with. To us, it was incredible. But the really amazing thing to me was, when the girls opened the gifts on Christmas morning, they unwrapped things that they had wanted. Perhaps the girls had made a list, but I don't remember them doing so. I suspect that somehow Mom had something to do with it but she acted as surprised as I was. But then, she always was a good actress. Regardless, it was one of the best Christmases we had together.
That was the first time that I'd been "in need" and on the receiving end of charity and, thankfully, it was the last time as well. But I will always remember the two unknown ladies who showed up on our doorstep that year and will be forever thankful to them and the unknown others who contributed and helped when we needed it most.