Imagine yourself a young mother with eight children and it is coming up on Christmas. You are struggling to survive the changes that have been handed to you. Your husband has decided he would rather live with and raise the family down the street than to honor you and be with his own children. Imagine yourself at a time when we did not have the safety nets we have now. No food stamps, no means of income. This was the reality that faced my grandmother. This was the Christmas my mother faced as a little girl when her father abandoned them.
This is not however a story of anger but a story of simple Christmas blessings. My grandmother did not let this shock shake her faith. On Christmas she gathered up her children to head to church. After the service, while walking home, my grandmother instructed her children to wait outside a shop where she could see someone working in the back. While the children waited, she approached the man working in a candy store and explained to him that the children out front were hers and that she had no money to buy them anything for Christmas this year. Would the man be willing to let my grandmother have any broken hard candy he was going to throw away as a small treat she could give her children for Christmas. The man agreed and for that one year all my mother and her siblings received was a bag of broken candy for the eight of them to share.
My mother never told me this story until I was an adult. She said this was not a sad story but one of hope. What my grandmother overcame seems insurmountable to me. Often there was not enough food and the Salvation Army provided many a meal for them until they could get on their feet. My mom always felt that this experience was character building. I think she was smarter than I knew. My parents lived a very simple life with no frills but I felt rich as a child. I never knew hunger and always was cared for by two loving parents. A stable home was all my mother ever desired. She was very content in her simple life and I can remember thinking even as a young teen that I wanted a life like my moms. She always seemed content with what we had. Never a need to change what was still usable. Never a rushed feeling in our home chasing busy schedules.
So as we race around trying to make everything perfect for the holidays, I remind myself of this story and that it does not take much to make a loving cozy Christmas. A warm home, some delicious food and thankfully we have always been able to provide more than broken Christmas candy. I love to make things special but I know more and more how at some point I just say that is good enough.
I wanted to share this story with you as a tribute to my mom but also to ask that if you pass the red kettle, think of dropping a little money in for the Salvation Army. They are a truly wonderful, selfless organization. 98% of all donations go to help those in need. I have always raised my kids giving donations to them every time we pass a kettle and making sure they know the story of how they helped my mother when she was young and how now we can give so they can help someone else.