As Thanksgiving week approaches, I start to think about blessings and how lucky I am to be in a more steady state of care giving. Just like the phases of life ebb and flow, so does the immediacy of my care giving responsibilities. At this point, I can look back with thankfulness at the many ways, big and small, that others have taken care of my family when we were in a time of crisis.
When we were deep in the throes of caring for my mother-in-law and father-in-law, both diagnosed with cancer within six weeks of each other, we were very lucky to have friends step-up to be a support network for us. My boys, who were very young at the time, weren’t getting a lot of time and attention and found the situation bewildering and scary. My husband was stretched having started a business in a different state. With the holiday’s approaching, it added an additional stressor I wasn’t sure how to manage.
It’s hard to know how to help someone when they’re just getting by, but our friends and neighbors found a way to support us – in fact it taught us all the value of accepting help and forced us to learn how to do it gracefully. One friend would leave groceries on our front porch that were her families’ favorite treats. What a gift to find just a bag of treats – all our favorites and some we’d never tried before – deluxe chocolates, mochi and salmon were just some of the items included. It got my children trying new foods and eliminated an errand for me.
The morning of December 1st was a grey day and particularly overwhelming, when suddenly there was a knock on the door. When we opened the door no one was there but there were 2 wrapped gifts. The boys opened them to find Lego Kits. We received gifts every morning for 25 days – December 1st through the 25th. Each day there was a card that read Merry Christmas from Elf #. It was a different number each day. It sounds silly but at first it was hard to receive. “Who’s doing this?” And, also a little creepy – “How does one person know all this about us?” To this day we don’t know who the group of people were (although we have very good guesses), because they didn’t want us to feel indebted or obligated to thank them in some way. It didn’t take us long to view this daily abundance as a joyous reminder that a group of elves were taking care of us. It taught our family but especially our children – the gift of gratitude and how to accept help.
Nowadays I try to return the favor. When I know that someone needs a lift or help with care giving, we leave something that will be helpful – maybe something they don’t even know they needed. And hopefully, this teaches my children the gift of asking for and accepting help when they need it and maybe even when they hadn’t realized yet that they needed it.
As I think about how blessed I am to have moved past emergencies and appreciative of how others have supported me. I’m more determined than ever to continue the flow of gratitude energy and support others in a similar manner.