I am willing to do just about anything to spend time with my kids. In the past that has meant skiing over cliffs to keep up with them, seeing awful movies or driving hours to watch a six-minute crew race or wrestling match. I doubt that will ever change. So I could relate when I read Lori Slaton’s story “Midnight Madness,” published in our book on parenthood.
Lori hates cold weather, traffic and crowds. Nevertheless, when her two teenagers asked her to take them to the late-night sales after Thanksgiving dinner, she said yes. She knew it would mean hours of quality time with her kids. They spent the hour-long car ride to the mall singing along with the radio and teasing each other for being off-key. They strategized about how to score the best deals when they arrived. “We all bonded as we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic with crazed smiles at midnight,” she wrote.
In the mall, they worked as a team, splitting up to track down items and then regrouping to compare their loot. They rooted through piles of clothes strewn about the stores looking for the right sizes and colors. They spent a long time looking for a particular shirt for Lori’s husband. Lori had just about given up when she saw her daughter holding up a shirt and grinning. “I got the last one!” she said.
“So we emerged at 3 a.m. with some bargains,” Lori wrote. “Nothing we couldn’t have found online or in stores at a reasonable hour,” but that didn’t matter. The only reason Lori had braved the cold, the traffic and the crowds was to be with her kids. On the drive home, “bleary eyed and running on nothing but adrenaline,” she said aloud, “next year, no shopping before 7 a.m.” There was no response. She looked in the rearview mirror and saw her children sleeping in the back seat as if they were little again. “The truth is,” she concluded, “if they ask me to go again next year, I’m in.”
Imagine this. You’ve just finished writing up your budget for the holiday season. You’re going to make it. Just barely. But you’re going to make it. You lean back, relieved. Then the doorbell rings. On your stoop, you find two children, the ones who belong to your neighbor who’s having trouble. “Can we stay with you?” one of them asks. It’s cold, the kids are crying and they’re holding pillowcases full of dirty clothes. Quickly, you usher them inside. Then you think about the consequences. This is what happened to Kelley Hunsicker, who wrote a story for our book about counting our blessings.
The next day the children’s father showed up. He’d gotten into an argument with his sister-in-law. She had kicked him and his kids out of her house. He thanked Kelley profusely and then asked a big favor: Could the kids stay for a couple of months while he got on his feet? Kelley’s thoughts immediately turned to food, water and electricity expenses, not to mention Christmas presents. The numbers wouldn’t work out, she knew, but she agreed anyway. Then she prayed that somehow her family would be able to afford Christmas for everyone.
During the following weeks, Kelley’s prayers were answered. Parents from her children’s school were so moved by her generosity that they helped in any way they could. One day, parents came with gifts for her neighbor’s children. Later a caravan of four cars rolled up to drop off food for the holidays. Kelley took inventory, hid the presents and then went shopping for her own kids.
On Christmas morning, the father of the children came over, and the two families spent the day together. The kids found a pile of presents around the tree, and the families enjoyed a feast of turkey, ham, potatoes, gravy, vegetables and an array of desserts. Kelley wrote: “We gave in our need, and we got more than we’d ever had before.”
To me, Kelley’s story embodies everything that the holiday season represents: a time to enjoy the company of our friends and family, to count our blessings and to find joy in giving to others.
Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com