Stumbling into kindness


When fall hits, I start thinking about Christmas presents. I like to have my holiday presents all planned out early so I can enjoy the season without rushing. However, this year I happened to stumble upon some gift giving at the last minute for some strangers. And in the end, it was more of a present for me…

This was the first Christmas that my children would both be gone. They were both off at college and celebrating Christmas morning with other friends and family. So that meant no stockings, no early morning presents or no childlike excitement. Needless to say, my mommy side was a bit sad. I enjoyed making the holidays extra special for the kids. (It may have been even more fun for me than them.)

So when I came across a Facebook post asking for donations for local families in need, I quickly offered some help. It would be nice to feel like Santa and it seemed simple enough. Buy a few grocery items that could be placed into a holiday food basket. The organizer, who was a stranger to me, happened to live just a few miles from me. That made it even easier for me to offer more help upon dropping off my contribution.

After talking with her, I found out that her idea of making a couple of food baskets turned into donations for eight families. Her and her two daughters had come up with the idea and made a simple post to a community Facebook group. Then, myself and others started donating. So her two baskets turned into eight. She was so overwhelmed at the sudden rush of donations, so I offered to help her deliver them on Christmas Eve. I mean, why not? I wasn’t doing anything with my kids that day anyway.

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This is the “basket” of food that was collected, which then turned into eight more.

For ease and safety, a majority of the baskets were taken to one location so that people could pick them up there. We were met with smiles and tears and genuine appreciation. Grown men and women humbly approached us and said, I’m …. you said to met you all here.  One man was picking up a basket for a woman with cancer. She wasn’t feeling well enough to get out, but her son came along too and greeted us with wide eyes when we gave him the food. Another woman showed up all tearful in her van that had a blanket for a side window. And a tattooed man that spoke of motorcycles could not completely hide his emotions as he drove away. It was touching to see how we had affected people in such a good way.

After we gave out those baskets, we had two more to deliver in the local area. One was to a single mom of five young boys. They didn’t know we were coming and when our cars pulled up on their dead end road, the boys started peaking out the window. I am sure they were wondering what a group of people were doing on their street all of the sudden. With a gallon of milk in my hand, I started to walk with the girls towards the house. Then I stopped. I realized I was walking with the girls who helped plan the event with their mom while she was standing back by the car. I couldn’t give out stuff with her girls while she stood in the shadows. I turned around and urged her to go instead since it was her idea after all. (We were trying not to overwhelm the lady by have too many people come to her door.)

So from the road, I saw the girls hug the young boys and the moms both wipe tears from their eyes. The boys started hopping around looking in the basket. There were no toys in the basket, but food is never a bad thing when your hungry.

Shortly after that, we stopped by an extended stay hotel. A lady came out slowly with a walker. She approached us and let us know that she was the one we contacted. We gave her the laundry basket full of food, and she started to tear up. I don’t know her story, but she thanked us for our kindness. I never thought I’d be in this position…but I am. So thank you. It means the world to me. 

The organizer of the baskets hugs a woman we gave to as her husband and daughter stand nearby.

I thought about her comment: she never thought she’d be here. That is so very true. None of know when life could give us some circumstance that throws us into a tailspin. And I know from my personal experience, it is hard to accept help. It is difficult to admit you need assistance. And it is humbling to need help from strangers.

As I watched these women hug, both crying, I felt a mix of sadness and joy. Here I was on Christmas Eve, standing in a parking lot with a bunch of strangers crying, and yet, I felt complete. Yes, I missed my kids and this was not how I envisioned my holiday. It was not even an idea until two days prior. Like the woman receiving the basket of food, I never thought I’d be here either. But here I was, and it felt good to be a part of something so simple and yet special…even if I stumbled into it.

 

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For the Daily Post Discover Challenge ~ Hope Gone Viral.

Update: Since this unplanned plan went so well. The ladies formed a group called the Breakfast Club and we plan to do more donations throughout the year.

And here is a message from the lady with five boys:

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Lost in Darkness


Sometimes my mind takes me to dark places. I don’t know why exactly, but I sink into it like warm bath water, slowly and deeply. It is not always scary or lonely, but most times, it is. When I am there, I look around and find that I feel terribly lost. Lost to my life, my dreams and my loved ones.

Most times, people don’t realize I am even there though for I cover it with smiles and activities. I stay busy a lot as I know this helps me avoid this dark path that I don’t like to travel. Yet, I can’t avoid it at times no matter how hard I try.

It is like slowly falling into cold darkness and being surrounded by nothing. Nothing but your thoughts. Thoughts that you cannot stop. They bombard your head like bullets. Each piercing some belief or hope. Each reminding you why you should not do something, be happy, or expect more from life. It tells you why you are worthless. It tells you that you are unlovable. It tells you that you are a failure. It tells you that the bad things were all your fault. It tells you that you deserve to be sad. You try to rationalize these bullets, but there are too many to fight. They are flying around you, through you.

This is a great time for dark writing, forlorn poetry and heart-wrenching tears of release. It can be useful to stand on the edge of madness and see what lurks deep inside your soul. The key is to not step over that edge…because if you do, it gets worse.

After that, the barrage of mental bullets stop, which you would think is a good thing. But it only leaves you in emptiness. Utter emptiness devoid of thought. You just sit there. You can’t cry. You can’t talk. You can’t think. You are just there and alone and numb. This is what I see/feel when I hear Great Big World’s (with Christina Aguilera) video Say Something, which nearly brings me to tears every time.

It is such a beautiful song and yet rips my soul out. It reminds me of lost love and being lost in my own darkness. It makes me think of times when I tried so hard to reach out to someone I loved to only be ignored or pushed away. It makes me relive times when I myself am unreachable. It makes me think of my veteran friends who can’t escape some terror in their mind (or my civilian friends who are just fighting depression). It makes me feel like no matter how much you love someone, sometimes you can’t help them, pull them out of themselves.

I like to think there is a path out of the darkness though. I find my way out all the time. Unfortunately though, I find my way back just as easily. But I am probably lucky; many don’t leave the darkness and can’t find the path. That’s when it gets dangerous. That’s when people give up on you, like the song says. Sadly, when we are lost in that darkness is when we need people the most. If only we could say something to them, they might be able to understand and pull us out into the light.

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