17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It Really is Better to Give Than to Receive

I know so many of you out there give freely to help others in need whether it is through the church, community, or world organizations. And so often these gifts are given through great organizations that make sure donations make it to those who need them the most.

But, I have found as charity becomes more "organized" it often becomes less personal. I don't think it's a bad thing necessarily. I am sure far more people overall are being helped. But one of the effects is that not often does the giver actually get to realize the true impact their small (or large) gift. They might get some some broad idea through a generalized statement from the organization or a "sample success story" but rarely anything specific. Again this isn't bad. Isn't the anonymous gift with no expectations a truly selfless act? But once in a while, when you are able to catch a small glimpse of the effects of your giving on a personal level it sure helps you remember why it is truly better to give than to receive. And such was the case this Christmas for my whole neighborhood.

This year, my neighborhood (and remind me someday to tell you someday how amazing my neighbors are) decided to forgo all "neighbor gifts" and instead "adopt" a family for Christmas. A letter was sent around close to Christmas announcing that a family had been found (through a neighbor's church) that could really use some help this holiday season. The single mother of four boys had lost her job then their apartment. A collection was made throughout the neighborhood (and some neighborhood friends helped out too- chloe happened to be visiting when the letter describing the families plight came around and couldn't help but add to the funds). One of the neighbors changed the money into giftcards per the mother's request and then I think we all pretty much forgot about it. Until the letter came, written by one of the teenage sons.

Dear R_____ Drive families,

My family and I would like to thank you for being so kind to us. This year was a tough year for my family and I. We were kicked out of our apartment because we couldn't pay our rent a few weeks before Christmas. There were days when we couldn't afford to stay in a motel and we would sleep in our car, friend's houses and with relatives. It was a difficult time and we thought our holidays were going to be sad because my two younger brothers were not going to get anything for Christmas. When V_____ told us that there was a few good people that wanted to help us we were very excited. We had never met anyone as nice as J_____ (insert: that's my neighbor). I did not know that there was really nice people out there who cared for strangers and were willing to help without knowing us. It was strange, but good. Thank you for the Christmas tree it was beautiful and smelled good.

When we first went to ______Church, we were a little scared and felt out of place but when we met J_____ she was very polite and very nice. My mom really enjoyed the service and so did my brothers. When J____ gave us the gift cards we had no idea that is was so much money and we could not believe it. We used the Marie Callendars gift card first and we had such a good time. It was out first time eating at a restaurant where people serve you. It was a bit strange since everyone was so polite. The waitress kept asking us if we were ok and we did not know what she meant by that but we were thankful. We were finally able to east as a family, together, a strong united family. My moms prayers were answered because it was all she wanted for Christmas to spend time together. Thank you. We will never forget that day.

The gift card to Wal-Mart was very helpful too. My brothers were able to buy shoes, shirts, and boxers. The card also helped us out a lot because right after we went to church, we found a room for rent and were able to buy some of the stuff that we needed like shampoo. We still have money left in the card and we are using it to buy some groceries. Once again we are thankful and our Christmas could not have been any better. We are so glad there are lots of nice people left because a lot of people are mean and selfish. I guess there is a God after all. Thank you for everything.

The S____ family.

I don't think anyone on the entire block was prepared to receive this sweet letter. And I know there wasn't one person who had any idea that sacrificing something so small as some baked goods, homemade candies, tins of popcorn and children's trinkets could fill another family's holiday with hope, love and a closeness to God. Totally worth it, don't you think?


  • That is a great idea for the holidays. I love it when a neighborhood adopts a family or cause and contributes to that instead of doing gifts. The street we used to live on did a similar thing. Each year someone different hosted the neighborhood party and whoever hosted also chose the charity. Everyone who came to the party brought a contribution. It was a great evening for all!
    posted by Anonymous Emily at 1/19/2008 07:41:00 PM  

  • "I guess there is a God after all."

    Wow. That almost-last line hit like a punch in the gut, but in a good way.

    I'm so glad your community did this. I want to do something like this.
    posted by Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve at 1/19/2008 09:31:00 PM  

  • As great and far reaching as the organized charities can be, in my limited awareness, it's the spontaneous gatherings of friends and neighbors who see a need and fill it that can be the most affecting experience.

    "It was out first time eating at a restaurant where people serve you. It was a bit strange since everyone was so polite."

    Wow. Just wow.
    posted by Blogger Azúcar at 1/19/2008 11:51:00 PM  

  • Isn't it amazing what we can do to touch each others' lives? That really is wonderful- thanks for sharing.
    posted by Anonymous tracy m at 1/20/2008 12:06:00 AM  

  • Wow! That's all I could think to say.
    What an amazing experience, not only for you, but for those sweet boys. Thank you so much for sharing this.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 1/20/2008 05:26:00 AM  

  • Wow- this letter gave me the chills and brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for sharing. I really can't stand the whole holiday neighbor gift thing. It's like "who's more creative than who" in our neighborhood. I'd much rather give to someone truly in need as this family was. What a wonderful story and great idea!
    posted by Blogger LJ at 1/20/2008 02:33:00 PM  

  • That is the best idea I've ever heard! What a great street you must live on. I got chills reading the thank you note.
    posted by Anonymous Julie P at 1/20/2008 03:15:00 PM  

  • In the case of holiday fruitcake, it is ALWAYS better to give than to receive. ;-)
    posted by Blogger Nick Literski at 1/21/2008 09:44:00 AM  

  • I cried when Carrie read me this letter last week. I was at her house when she was telling me about this family - it was easy to pull out my checkbook and make a contribution. I remember looking around her house and saying, "Hey, you don't need this - let's give it to the family! I don't need any of this stuff (in my suitcase)!" It was one of those frantic moments when you realize how MUCH you have and how little others have and you just want to help a little.

    Thanks so much for posting this - it is always better to give than to receive...
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 1/22/2008 10:33:00 AM  

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