Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I don't know how to begin to thank you.....

Last night I was driving home and I was hit with an unexpected, and unprompted, memory.

I thought about it and knew where my mind was leading me......

Six years ago, this coming January, Steven was in an accident. (Yes. Another one.) Ice was on the road and he, and his tractor and wagon he was pulling, slid off the road and rolled over an embankment. He jumped off the tractor, but, upon landing, some portion of it rolled over his leg, breaking it. Unable to move, or stand upright, he waited until someone (my uncle) found him in the ravine, where he lowered a sled to him and two men pulled him out.

He was lucky to be alive.

I remember telling my boss, the funeral director, and his response was "He is the first person to roll a tractor that I know of, and live to tell about it."

He obviously ended up in the hospital, had to have surgery and was immobilized for three months. We had recently paid off our land and was currently living in our trailer hashing out plans to build our house. Because of this, we, thankfully, didn't have a land payment OR a mortgage. This was a blessing because in the instant of his accident, I became the primary bread winner.

Being self-employed, as Steven is, there is no workman's comp. There is no sick leave.

There is nothing.

Due in part to the fact that we lived in an 800 sq ft trailer and had been planning on building, we had money put back and we knew that things would be OK.

Not ideal. But OK.

And life went on.

One day, I remember going to the mailbox. When sorting through the mail, I noticed an envelope with no return address. I opened it up to find $200.00 in cash.

I was immediately flooded with all kinds of emotions.

Embarrassment and gratitude, to name two.

Gratitude that someone thought of us and wanted to help us and embarrassment at the prospect of someone thinking that we couldn't make it on our own.

What is that called? Oh, yeah. Pride.

I won't lie. The $200.00 came in handy. I made decent money, but nothing compared to what we were used to coming in with Steven working. I had budgeted out our monthly bills and knew that we could do it, it would just be tight. We hated to use our savings....however, we could and would.

But..... you know what else happened during those 3 months?

The propane tank never emptied.
There were always diapers for L at the sitter.
The tractor that was flipped was fixed.
The wagon was rebuilt.
Food was brought and left.
Wood for our stove was always cut.

AND ALL OF THIS WAS DONE IN SECRET. Just like the $200.00 in cash.

We never asked it of anyone, but "they" did it anyway.

We didn't HAVE to have help.

We would have made it ourselves.

But people, some that have never revealed themselves, wanted to give to us.

We could have made it without help, but they didn't want us to. They gave freely and, obviously, for no other reason than because they willed it.

Because of the anonymity of their giving, we couldn't call and say "Thanks", we couldn't send them a card and most importantly, we couldn't pay them back.

I remember discussing the situation with friends. I was completely on my knees with humbleness and humility. I wanted to be a good steward of what we had been given.

I was worried because Steven and I had already made arrangements to take L and fly to Florida that Spring prior to his accident. Steven was to be the best man at his friend, Roberts' wedding. Our gift from Robert was lodging during our stay, but we, obviously, would pay for the flight.

I told my parents and friends that we weren't going. I was afraid that someone who had helped us might think that we were not respecting their contribution to us. Think that we were taking advantage of the situation. Of people's generosity.

The anonymous giver of the $200 really stuck in my mind. Not knowing them made me unable to explain to them the circumstances of this trip. Unable to explain that we "didn't ask for your money" and now we feel guilty for receiving it.

However, the response from relatives and friends alike was the same.

Everyone said we needed to go. If not for us, then for Robert.

"People who knew us would know the type of people we were"........ And I made up my mind that I would not keep what I had been given. Everything we received would somehow eventually be passed on to others.
As I recalled this period of my life many things became apparent to me. Instead of seeing this time through my eyes, I began to look at it through the giver's.

I realized that when giving, you experience a joy that can not be obtained any other way. In fact, times when I have given anonymously, I have felt even more joy than when someone felt the need to say "Thank you".

I didn't want a "thank you", I wanted to help. I didn't want to police what they did with what I gave, I just wanted to give. Paying the money and generosity forward have been big blessings in our lives. For me and for Steven.

I will admit I haven't always been this way.

Many times I thought that people waited for their hand out, with their hand out. I have seen first hand people who milk the system. It was, and sometimes still is, hard for me to reconcile the fact that I have to work hard for everything I have and others just take what they can get in the form of what others are willing to give.

However, somewhere along the line there became a shift in my way of thinking. I realized that it isn't my job to qualify or dis-qualify some one's worthiness to receive help.

Shouldn't I know first hand that an outsider looking in would think that we knew how to work it when we arrived home from Florida, relaxed and tan. (OK, I don't tan....but still.) If the people who had helped us had went around telling how they had helped and people had then viewed us through those skeptical eyes, they too, would probably think that we had pulled the wool over every one's eyes and that we had sat with OUR hand out.

But we didn't ask for help.

And people gave anyway.

And THEY didn't ask for thanks.

"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. " Matthew 6:3-4

So this post is serving as a reminder to myself that giving, without getting anything in return, is the best type of giving. I hope to strive to continually do more.

"Paying forward" the generosity that was bestowed on us has blessed us far beyond the original 'gifts' we received.

Almost 6 years later, I wish I knew who to thank, not for the money and the 'help' they provided, but for changing me and the way I look at giving to others.

Merry Christmas!


The Next Phase said...

What a beautiful lesson and change to occur within you...thank you for sharing!!!

Beth said...

I love this post. Thank you for sharing this.