Saturday, December 27, 2008

Guilt-tinged Gratitude

Have I mentioned we're poor? American poor that is. No starvation going on here, but in general when the kids take their cans of soup to the food drives or make cards for the needy, those items tend to come back to us.

This year so many people are having financial difficulties that I was certain there would be very few gifts for the children other than what I could procure. The day after Thanksgiving, I did some pretty impressive Goodwill half-price sale shopping and was calling it good.

Then our Relief Society President asked if they could give the children each a present, something they needed.

"Thank you. That would be nice."

A week later, the Bishop told us that he'd recommended us to a company that chooses a family each year to adopt. Clothes, mostly.

"Oh, that would be nice, very nice!"

Shortly thereafter, a sweet lady called and told me that the weirdest thing had happened. She'd been buying a tree and a guy came up to her and asked her if she wanted an extra tree because he'd gotten an extra for free. So...did we have a tree yet? Could we take this one off her hands?

"Um...OK...I love real trees. Thanks!"

As my lovely RS President handed me three big black garbage bags of gifts for my lovely children the week before Christmas, she explained that we had asked for so little she added a "few things" to our requests.

"Wow! Thanks! The kids will be thrilled!"

Monday, the 22nd a man showed up to my door when I was expecting a friendly acquaintance from church.

"Hi! Jami? I'm Bob [all names have been changed, except mine]. This is Sandra, Robin, and Jason. Where would you like these?" says he pointing to a few charmingly wrapped gifts.

"Uh, on the couch I guess. Thanks."

"Oh we'll need more room than that. Ho, ho, ho!" And they proceeded to bring more and more and more gifts in.

I suspected they were the company to whom the Bishop had given our information, but they had probably ten gifts per child, much more than I was expecting.

"Um, thanks so much. Um...who are you?"

"Oh, replied Bob. "I already told you: I'm Bob. There's Sandra and Robin. And he's Jason."

Cute, thought I, but who ARE you? "I mean who are you associated with? Are you related to Dave who was coming over at 10?"

"Dave? We're no relation to him . . . but we know him."

OK, Misters and Misses Anony-mice. I get it. No clues. "You really know how to raise my kids' heart rates," I joked. "That's a lot of presents. Thank you!"

The kids added their heartfelt thanks ["Thank you!"(N) "Thank you." (V) "Thanks." (E) "Niiiice!" (J) "Tanksyerwelcome!" (C)] and our benefactors went their merry philanthropic way.

Ten minutes later, two teachers from the school dropped off a turkey, a huge bag of oranges, a half dozen cupcakes and a big box of food.

An hour after that, Sister Sweet delivered a lovely ham and a huge box of yummies.

The receiving cooled off for a day. Then came Christmas Eve at my mom's, relaxed and wonderful. The angel-monkeys sang for Grandma, and two of them played their trumpets. After that came the gifts. Concerned that the kids were not getting many presents this year, mom and the Yvil-auntie got them nearly everything on their lists.

Let me tell you...there was much rejoicing Christmas morning. N in particular just kept opening each of her gifts, hugging them, exclaiming, "I'm just so happy!" Even I teared up a few times.

I am filled with gratitude towards the founders of our feast. However, I do feel a bit guilty: all of that just for us when so many are needy this year. Also I think I may need to buy some carbon offsets for the wrapping paper/cardboard/shrink wrap abomination that constitutes our garbage this week. And perhaps, just perhaps, we concentrated a bit too much on gifts, and not quite enough on Christ this Christmas.


Heidi Ashworth said...

Holy hannah! Are there no other worthy recipients of their largesse in your neighborhood? Or do you live in a rich neighborhood that can sustain any number of "American poor" families? We have had a number of sub-American poor years and were never treated like that (six year old cocoa mix in a jar and a used Barbie doll doesn't smack of largesses, if you know what I mean but I hate to be ungrateful). It must be because you are so sweet. I'm glad you had a great Christmas. :)

Jami said...

I know! We are always poor and never has anything like this happened before. And no we live in the poorest section of town, there are lots of poor here, American and otherwise.

I have not room enough to receive it. Really. Where am I going to put all this stuff? (She says, filled with gratitude.)

The Motherboard said...

I'm quite teary over here in Crazyland. I have been on the recieving end before, much like you were this year- and its hard to not think "why me? are there none others?" But, let the blessings from heaven flow not only to you-- but to those who gave to you.

Merry Christmas, friend. And praise allah for DSL so you can visit me and post your beauty again!

Heather of the EO said...

Consider yourself blessed. One day you'll pay it forward. You know, like when you write a book and make millions. :)

You blessed the people who gave to you, that's one of the coolest parts. People LOVE to help and they just so happened to focus on you guys this year.

I totally get what you mean about focusing on that stuff though, that's what happens when there's SO much. We get overwhelmed with gifts from grandparents. TOO much spoilage. It's nice and then confusing at the same time. I appreciate it, I just don't feel right about it. I'm a terrible gracious receiver :)

Annette Lyon said...

What an amazing experience. I'm with Motherboard--no guilt. Next year it can be someone else's turn, but for now, enjoy it!

Melanie J said...

Wow! I love this! Yay for Christmas, soft hearts and sharp eyes!

e said...

"The kids added their heartfelt thanks ["Thank you!"(N) "Thank you." (V) "Thanks." (L) "Niiiice!" (J) "Tanksyerwelcome!" (C)]"

I said thanks too. :(

Jami said...

Sorry, thought you were asleep, babe. It must have been L. I'll go change it now.

Sue said...

I think that's awesome. I can tell you feel a little guilty about the bounty. Don't. Enjoy it. YAY.

Jami said...

Thanks everybody. It's hard to be always taking and never giving. Always/never those words that are always wrong, never accurate. Anyway, the balance seems to be leaning toward receiving this year. I really am trying to shoo the guilt away and I appreciate all the encouragment.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Oh Jami, that reminds me so much of my family Christmas' growing up. My mom is so sooooo self conscious about all the receiving. She would totally get the whole guilt-tinged gratitude thing.

Hey, I'm back! I'm really really back this time! Never mind what my post says. The internet is up and running.

Alison Wonderland said...

Wow! That's awesome! I can totally understand the guilt but there's nothing to do but smile and love it. You may feel like you're a little too focused on the gifts but all those givers were focused on the giving. If nothing else you made their Christmas.

Jo said...

And those who gave received the blessing of what Christmas is really about. Awesome post and awesome blessings.