It is so easy to get disillusioned this time of year. All you see are ads and commercials for things – the latest toys, electronics, gadgets or clothes that we simply MUST have if we are to be happy. We overbook our time with parties, events, decorating, shopping and wrapping.
On top of all that, at the nonprofit where I work, this is our busiest time since we have two Christmas programs and an increase in the numbers of clients seeking other assistance.
I am exhausted. And prone to wanting it all to be over.
But instead of seeing the city street as in this photo, I need to focus on the whimsical snow creature in the foreground. In other words, I need to change my perspective.
Last night, perspective hit me in the face, in the shape of a thin young mother at The Manger, one of the Christmas programs at my nonprofit where we will help over 800 families have a better Christmas.
The temperatures have been in the 30’s at night this week, and people stand out in that cold for hours, waiting to come in and shop for gifts.
I noticed her sitting just inside the door in a thin, short-sleeve shirt and jeans, but didn’t think much about it. I was helping with registration and was busy. But then one of the volunteers pulled me aside and asked if there was anything we could do – evidently she had told him didn’t have a coat – at all. It wasn’t that she just didn’t have one with her. She didn’t have a coat.
I had been ticking off in my head the litany of complaints – I was cold (even though I was inside with a sweater, coat and gloves on), my feet hurt, I was tired, and I just wanted to go home. Bam. Once again, I was hit with the fresh reality of how blessed and selfish I am. Made aware of what a safe and comfortable life I have.
I headed to the gift area, and searched. I found a brand new jacket that looked like the right size and some gloves. I went back out to the front. Once she came over to registration, away from most of the other people, I put the jacket around her shoulders and handed her the gloves.
She got wide-eyed and asked, “Is that for me?”
Then she hugged me – hard for someone so thin and small – and she was teary. “Thank you so much. Y’all have done so much for me.”
As we got her registered for her and her son, someone asked how old her son was. “He’s a year and a half, and he’s a mess. He wants an elf for Christmas. A real elf.”
Some of the people who come through have a “gimme gimme” attitude. This young girl was quiet and unassuming. And grateful.
It is refreshing when you can know that you have truly impacted someone. This girl told me before she left that she wants to come volunteer this week at GraceWorks – to give back for having received so much.
How do you change your perspective?