The frenzy has caught up with me this past week. This is the part where I remind myself that I actually DO enjoy this time of year and for the most part I enjoy the frenzy and the pace and the socializing and the family time. It is another year of adjustment and hopefully I’m doing better this year than I did last year.
Last year I was juggling the newness of a relationship and working and going to grad school and trying to adjust to different schedules and be a host to everyone that needed or wanted it and I failed miserably. The sting is still palpable, though time has started to ease it a bit. Forgiving myself has been the biggest task from that debacle, I ache at the thought that I hurt feelings or didn’t do right by people that I care about.
But this is a time for forgiveness and a time for grace and I want to tell you about something beautiful that happened the past few weeks.
As Mark and I decorated for Christmas this month, we found that he had some things he didn’t love, I had things I didn’t love or didn’t need or just didn’t work in this house anymore. I thought about the tornado victims in my district and how so many families have nothing this season as it all got blown to high hell in May. So I called my Red Cross contact, sent some emails requesting a specific case worker or family that might like to have all of this stuff.
A result of that came with an email from a pastor who was putting together an event in Little Axe which is a rural community, steeped in a culture of poverty and disconnection, just south/east of Norman. He told me of an event that some agencies were putting together for families that had been identified as those devastated by the tornado. I agreed to provide the wrapping materials, bags, tissue, tape, scissors etc for this event. After another email, I was informed that the giant truckload of toys that had been promised, was not going to arrive, leaving this event in the lurch. At one point it was cancelled/rescheduled then it was attached to another event happening the next day. I was scrambling to figure out a way to help.
Here’s where the story becomes one of grace and hummanity.
I got online and asked for help from a few friends. Friends in my neighborhood, friends that I have in Norman, friends that I have from California to Florida to Brooklyn.
Suddenly, I had neighbors delivering sacks and string and ribbon and wrapping and gifts. I had friends digging out tons of boxes and Christmas stockings. I had friends making donations to PayPal for me to use to shop.
In the middle of this I had a visit with the main coordinator at the Little Axe Elementary School. I had worked with her a little before as this is in my district and one of my schools where I have Girl Scouts. She and I had a really long talk and she told me that the teachers of LAE always adopt a family or two every year for Christmas. As I said, this is a community just steeped in poverty. This year they decided to adopt families from the tornado. Who would know better the needs than these people who educate and work with the families every single day, right? Well here’s the kicker. This event that I was already hooked up with that had lost their donor of toys had promised LAE all that was leftover for their adopted families. You can see where this is going, right?
While the first event was associated with various recover agencies, they were able to scramble and buy toys. Turns out they didn’t actually *need anything from me other than the wrapping station supplies.
It made perfect sense to then transfer our donations and energy to help the families of the Little Axe Elementary, right? Right.
You guys…I collected $500.00 from friends to help these kids. It was the most amazing and humbling thing I’ve seen in awhile. Paypal is a beautiful piece of technology.
So. On Sunday my friend Suzy and I went out and wrapped presents for families at the first event. That in itself was a beautiful and humbling experience. It was a beautiful example of people helping people. We had many different agencies and churches coming together to help provide for those in need. Tornados don’t pick and choose who they destroy. The weather doesn’t care if you’re white, upper middle class, grandparents or if you are uneducated and poverty stricken or if you’re hiding from civilization because of the drugs you’re selling. We wrapped gifts for everyone that day. And it was good.
I mentioned that I was taking things out on my FB page and Alison and Becky both brought things to the Council office and loaded it into my car. This was truly a community effort. We were able to give every girl a Girl Scout t-shirt and a membership and I have plans to go out next month and into the Spring to deliver some awesome programming with the Red Cross. I took the money and went to Big Lots and bought so much stuff it! Games were on BOGO. Good games! I bought toys and watches and cars and dolls and bath and body things and some other gift sets for the older kids. I spent the **entire amount and it felt amazing.
You should have seen the eyes of Sandy at the school when I started carrying in sack after sack after sack. We both teared up. Who am I kidding. We both just hugged each other and cried.
It’s cold here, you guys. There are people who are struggling in so many ways we cannot imagine. The idea of having children, and those children talking to others about Christmas and wishes and wants and knowing there is no way that Santa will come to visit because of life and weather patterns…I just cannot.
Each family had a box and a number (no names to protect privacy) and at the end of my visit they were overflowing. See?
I am so thankful for you that gave. Time, talent and treasure, you gave it all. You also taught me that in the middle of the frenzy, and the crazy and the panic, in the middle of worry about past mistakes and how that will play out this year, in the middle of all the noise…
There is grace in this life.
While it is easy to get caught up in the mire and the muck, the fact remains that no one is disposable. We are here to take care of each other. To love through the fallible moments and make a difference in a life.
I realize that I get manic and nutty about things. I need to have a schedule and know about deadlines and for things to really go as planned. I’m very capable to adjusting to change but it’s not my favorite and the older I get the more I realize that about myself. In the final analysis, I was the one that blessed. Blessed by the grace of these people in Little Axe. I was blessed by the grace of my friends who stepped up and donated and helped, and blessed by the experience itself.
**The entire amount didn’t actually go to Little Axe. One day last week I got a phone call from a very desperate woman who got my number from the initial inquiry with the Red Cross. She was trying to help a family of five that lived in south OKC. There were 4 children and one on the way. She had been turned down by several other places and she was just on the verge. I could hear it in her voice. I told her that I would meet her in the Wal Mart parking lot in 45 minutes and ran home, got all of the excess decorations, got the toys from the toy drive I did at work for the initial event, and got 100.00 in cash from the donation fund and gave it all to her. I told her to go buy groceries or a tree or diapers or whatever the family needed.