Lonely, so lonely.
Tin can at my feet,
I think I'll kick it down the street.
That's the way to treat a friend.
Bright before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way.
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it's gonna rain today.
I spent more than six weeks raising donations of holiday gifts for vulnerable people. Our goal was to provide a gift for hundreds of people. I had to do this around my primary job duties so I was up at 5 AM, on the computer all evening long and tweeting during any spare minute. So many people helped, but there was just so much I had to on my own time.
As the project drew to a close, I found myself feeling sad and a little empty. I didn't shop for any gifts to give. I didn't decorate. I ate, slept, exercised and did all the important self-care, but putting up a tree just didn't make the list. I also lived “out loud” during all that time, cajoling people to donate, tweeting about events, sharing every moment to help people understand why it mattered. As Christmas Day drew near, I guess my sadness was palpable. I kept telling myself that all the good we accomplished should be enough, but I also realized how much personal joy I sacrificed.
Let me be clear, it was worth it because I had a warm home, a Ledcat and plenty of food. Feeling sad and lonely is not reserved for those who go without, but I am very aware of my good fortune. I have no reason to complain, simply to set the stage for my Christmas gift. Hopefully, next year there will be more hands to help and I am confident that will happen.
On Christmas Eve, my friend Kerry called me to say someone had wanted to drop off a gift for me at his shop and would I come down. He didn't know them. I was skeptical, assuming it was another gift for the holiday drive and thinking I would just get it after Christmas. He insisted it was for me. They had noticed my sadness on Twitter and wanted to do something for me. I honestly couldn't believe that so I said I would get it eventually.
Actually, to be honest, I told him to give it to someone in need because I didn't think I needed a Christmas gift as I had just collected more than 500 of them. He laughed at me and said it would be wating for me.
I didn't go get it. Monday, we took a walk around the Northside and stopped at the shop, obstensibly to visit Kerry but really to use the bathroom. When I came back, an envelope was sitting at my place. Then I remembered.
I opened it and found the following note:
For all the things you do for others. This is for you. We're really just neighbors you've never met, but would like to share some joy for the holiday season.
Now I'm a little embarrassed to share this and I don't want to rhapsodize about holiday miracles or any such thing. But the gift was very generous and something I really liked and had a profound impact on me.
I believe when Randy Newman wrote the song lyric I quoted above, he captured the sense of being alienated so poetically. I had just experienced a massive flow of human kindness after I had been “showing them the way” to help. But, apparently, I kept stepping out of the way of the flow and into the shadows to avoid this being about me.
I didn't mean to share my sadness or any negative feelings during the holiday seasons, but a little part of me is really glad that someone heard me.
I want to thank my new friends for the lovely gift, but for something more precious. I now know how the people who received gifts from my project feel. I am very humbled by this whole experience and will carry that gift forward.