Remembering Christmas: The Giver
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, Calif.
This week we are sharing one of our unforgettable Christmas people. My mind goes immediately to my family. That would be the easy choice. I grew up in a happy, happy family.
My father wasn’t so blessed, however. His family was. . . well, odd. He was an only child with a composer/musician father and a mother who never quite grew out of her speakeasy days. To say they were interesting would be an understatement. My grandfather played the piano at the Cliff House in San Francisco between gigs on the radio. My grandmother’s three sisters–Cora, Electa and Grace–lived in a downtown San Francisco hotel for as long as I knew them. I remember their clean laundry being delivered every week from the Chinese laundry, wrapped in slick blue paper and tied in string. The aunts had long red fingernails and wore ropes of jewelry–the antithesis of my mother’s solid farm stock. When the aunts laughed, it came out as a trio of cackles. I have to admit, we were mostly scared of them.
At Christmastime my father would collect his whole family and bring them to the house for dinner. As he extracted the aunts from the car, he would always wink at us kids and whisper, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. . .”
But writing about those characters is too easy, isn’t it?
Instead, if the spirit of Christmas is giving, I’m going to tell you about my mysterious giver. My Dad was diagnosed with cancer during my last year of high school. He died just before my graduation. It devastated our family, especially my mom, a widow in her forties with seven children and precious few resources. I had already planned to go away to college, and my mother insisted we keep things moving forward. She figured we’d manage it somehow. My counselors at school scurried to get financial aid for me, and by September, I packed my things and headed off to school with little more than change in my pockets. It was a scary time.
Money was so tight I had no idea how I would make it. That first Christmas, before school let out for break, I received a letter in my mail cubby in the dorm. It had no return address.Inside was a blank piece of paper wrapped around a twenty-dollar bill and a five-dollar bill. I don’t remember why I needed it so badly that exact moment, but I do remember bursting into tears. It made all the difference in the world to me at that time. I racked my brain trying to figure out who had sent that gift. I never did solve the mystery, but those envelopes came three or four times each year I was in college–always just when I needed it most.
To this day I have no idea who my secret benefactor was, but he or she changed my life. Not because of the money or the belief in me, though that was no small thing. I learned firsthand the power of anonymous giving. It’s something of which the world has so little understanding. There’s a verse about this: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1-3). My mysterious giver must have known that verse.
Because of this giver, my challenge has been to pass it on whenever I can. At Christmastime, most of us receive gifts that are tagged and given with great fanfare. I challenge you to find at least one way to give anonymously. It’s not too late to take up this habit before 2011 tiptoes away.
Have you had an anonymous angel in your life? Have you found any innovative ways to “pay it forward?” By sharing, you’ll help to inspire our giving.