I never thought I would be on the receiving end of a Christmas Jar miracle.
I have read Christmas Jars multiple times, and we even have a large jar filled about a quarter of the way up with change perched on our kitchen counter. The money in that jar has been accumulating for three years now. It's not much, but we had still planned to give it away when we felt it had enough money in it to be helpful to someone. But that's not the point.
The point is, I didn't think our family was the in-need type. When we came home last night after a dinner with my parents, my husband and I divvied up the duty of carrying in either the 20 pound diaper bag or the car seat containing the 20 pound baby as usual. Only this time, my husband stopped before reaching to retrieve our son, because blocking the door was a large cardboard box.
He hauled the very heavy box inside, and after the baby was settled, we sat down to open it. On top of the box were the words "Merry Christmas" in alternating red and green ink, the letters starting out big on the left and slowly getting smaller until they were scrunched up at the end. A child's work I was sure. We opened the box, and much to our surprise, inside was a very large ham, a bottle of sparkling water, and a mason jar filled with change.
I didn't know what to think. My emotions were in turmoil. Gratitude for someone who cared that things were a little tight for us mingled with guilt that there were people in the world worse off than us. I checked off the things in my mind that I felt disqualified us for the Christmas Jar.
First, we were making our bills. Second, while my husband was going to school full-time, he still had gotten full financial aid for the past two semesters. Third, our son was well-cared for, most of his clothes and other necessary baby items were given to us by very loving and generous friends before he was born at the baby showers I had. Fourth, it just didn't seem right to receive what we had sitting in our very own kitchen.
I struggled for a few minutes with these thoughts. I didn't know how I should be reacting about this beautiful gesture, but I was fairly certain this wasn't the right way. I continued to go over my list, trying to find why someone would feel we were in dire enough circumstances to need a jar of change to tide us over.
Then I decided it was time to put my pride away.
Yes, we were making our bills, but only after dipping into our savings every month. My husband's hours at work were recently cut, making it even harder. Yes, my husband has barely had to contribute any money to the last two semesters of school, but a letter came a few days ago saying the financial aid was being pulled. Sure we plan on filing an appeal with the school, but who knows if it will go through? What if it doesn't?
Did I mention that while our son is adequately clothed, we haven't been able to yet find affordable health insurance for him? That I'm paying well over a hundred dollars for each doctor's appointment he goes to?
The guilt was still there, but it had changed course. I hadn't been gracious in accepting this very special gift. There was no reason why I should have protested so hard against the love and kindness someone was showing us.
It doesn't really matter if we "deserve" the jar or not. The real point is, someone cared enough to give. Giving is the point of the Christmas Jar. We have two choices when we are the recipient of such a gift. We can be grateful and let that grateful feeling fill us up and overflow into our actions, and prompt us to give again to someone else. Or we can feel embarrassed and ashamed that someone noticed our need, and let the flow of charity stop with us.
We're giving our Christmas Jar to a family that recently lost their daughter in a tragic accident. It's not a lot of money, but our intention is that they know someone cared enough to give it.
Thank you for this wonderful book that has inspired so many people to share the Christmas spirit of love and benevolence.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
"It just didn't seem right to receive what we had sitting in our very own kitchen."
Beautifully written. One of the most insightful Christmas Jar stories I've ever received.