1: Something to Give

1: Something to Give

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Something to Give

No one has ever become poor by giving.

~Anne Frank

“It seems colder than last year,” my son, Jordan, said with a smile. One Saturday every December, his Sunday School class volunteered to man the Salvation Army kettle in front of our local grocery store. Jordan and I were assigned the early afternoon shift.

“You’re right,” I said. “It does seem colder this year.”

Jordan and I split the duties evenly. He rang the bell while I passed out candy canes to the children who passed by.

Everyone was so kind to us. The lady who worked at the deli counter brought us hot chocolate. People smiled and wished us a Merry Christmas, whether they donated any money or not. And one man, when I thanked him for his donation, said, “No, thank you. I gave a bit of money, but you’re giving your time.”

Their kindness made the time fly by, despite the cold.

Shortly before our replacements were due to arrive, a young woman and her little boy passed by. I smiled and offered the boy a candy cane. “Merry Christmas,” I said.

The woman looked at me, her eyes full of sadness and defeat. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I don’t have anything to give.”

Her words brought an instant lump to my throat. Just a few short years ago, I too had uttered those words. And I’m sure I had the same look in my eyes when I said them.

It happened on Christmas Eve in 2005. Just four days before, my husband had asked me for a divorce. His announcement had been devastating in every sense of the word. I tried desperately to maintain a sense of normalcy for my children’s sake. So there I was, walking into my local discount store, hoping to snag a few more presents to go under our tree.

I heard the bell long before I spotted the elderly gentleman ringing it. When he saw me, he smiled and wished me a Merry Christmas. He couldn’t have known it, but I’d been barely holding onto my composure. His kindness was my undoing. Tears filled my eyes as I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have anything to give.”

At my tears, his smile faded, but he quickly recovered. “Oh, dear, you’ve got it all wrong,” he said. “We all have something to give.”

“I really don’t,” I said. “You see, my husband...”

“Not all of us are called to give money,” he interrupted. “Some of us can only offer a smile or a listening ear. Sometimes, a kind word or a hug can go a long way. And praying for someone is always a gift.” He smiled. “So, even with empty pockets, you always, always have something to give.”

I nodded. “Thank you, Sir. I’ll remember that.”

“I’ll be praying for you,” he added, “for whatever troubles you’re having.”

I smiled through my tears and thanked him again.

Back in the present, I thought about the hot chocolate from the deli lady. I remembered the smiles and the kind words from everyone who passed by. Their thoughtfulness had warmed my heart, despite the near-freezing temperatures.

I looked in that young woman’s eyes and repeated those words I’d never forgotten: “Oh, dear, you’ve got it all wrong. Empty pockets or not, we’ve all got something to give.”

Especially at Christmas.

~Diane Stark

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