Thanks to all the toy collections around town and the Facebook power of Elizabeth Gilbert; I was moved to help raise money to aid the refugees through her organization, The Compassion Collective. Suddenly, I stopped feeling sorry for myself....this third Christmas without my husband. Here's why.
He surprised us every Christmas with thoughtful, unexpected gifts...perfectly suited to our needs or desires. But like many men, he was hard to buy for. He didn't want anything; quietly tolerating the usual new shirt, book, and kitchen gadgets each year. His Christmas Morning magic was watching the rest of us open and exclaim over our presents! I never realized how much pleasure he got sharing and giving until I clicked submit and realized how often he'd done this.
He always did it and did it well! He gave to friends who were raising money by riding, running or triathloning for leukemia, heart disease and diabetes research. He donated annually to Western Michigan University, the Salvation Army and Empty Stocking Fund, and to local police, firemen and school fundraisers.
One of his favorite things this time of year was Toys for Tots. He'd watch for coupons and comb clearance racks for decent toys and games...."not junk." He'd buy bags full at the after-Christmas sales for the following year. He loved showing me what he'd picked out for boys, for girls, for various ages. A few times I raided these bags needing a last minute something for the grandkids.
Now I'm taking over his joy in helping others....his generosity and care in making a difference for those less fortunate. I haven't got his passion yet, but I know he'd be proud that I stepped up and contributed to the most pressing world need right now...helping the refugees.
We were both history majors with a strong sense of family. His dad was an immigrant welcomed to a new country as soon as he stepped foot on Ellis Island; my dad was hidden by French townspeople for 70 days during WWII. Whenever I'd complain about hurting our budget, he'd say "it's what we do, Joan....give back, pay forward."
And there-in lies my peace. Paying forward what someone, somewhere did for our families once upon a time....do onto others. Miss you, sweetheart. Thank you for reminding me to carry on.