Over the years, we have enjoyed giving selfless service, especially around Christmastime. We have been so blessed - or lucky, or simply well taken care of - that we have always wanted to give back by giving something to others in need.
Last December, after several years of joblessness and desperate financial straits, we had our Christmas carefully planned around our meager budget. On the Sunday before Christmas, our church had organized an after-church activity where we assembled baskets of food (not just goodies, but real groceries suitable for a Christmas feast) and delivered them to the needy families in our congregation. It was cold, and since it was close to winter solstice it got dark quickly, but we had fun, and it was good to re-acquaint ourselves with the basket recipients.
Not long after we returned home, our doorbell rang. I opened the door, to find a member of our congregation standing there with a basket of food for us. That stark moment of cognitive dissonance was like ... well, that's how it must feel to see yourself on TV for the first time. We had never considered ourselves "needy," but somebody did, and somebody cared enough about us to perform this act of service for us.
But we got something extra in our basket. After I thanked the brother and took the basket inside, I saw an envelope nestled among the apples and oranges. I assumed it was a greeting card, but when I opened the envelope, several hundred-dollar bills fell out.
You know, I know that Christmas 2009 was full of fun times, and love, and family togetherness, but I don't remember any of that stuff - at least not with the photographic clarity with which I remember that basket of food and those hundred-dollar bills. And now that we're back on a firm financial foundation, I never want to forget that basket. I want it to colour our Christmas celebrations for the rest of our lives.