November 25. “It is not the things we get, but the hearts we touch, that will measure our success in life.” (Anonymous)
There is something fitting about today’s quote being anonymous, because it made me think about a Christmas story from about 20 years ago where my family and I were anonymous.
It was about the 20th of December. We had finished all of our shopping, and most of the gifts were wrapped. Our children were in the prime of the Christmas morning mayhem years, and it had been a stressful season of clandestine shopping and late night wrapping. The house was decorated and ready, and school was wrapping up for the Holiday season. I think I had even worked my last day of the year.
My wife and I were proud of the fact that we had finished early, and were avoiding the carnage that was surely taking place at the mall. Then we got a phone call.
A friend called to tell us that another friend of theirs, whom we’d never met, was having a hard time during the holidays. The mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and the battle wasn’t going well. The father’s job had been largely seasonal and spotty at best. It looked like their three children would not have much for Christmas.
That night we talked about it as a family at dinner. My oldest was about 11, and the others younger from there. Our budget was wearing thin from all the shopping, but we decided that this was something important. My wife and I divided up the list of members of that family, and our own children, and off we went to the mall.
Ordinarily shopping at the mall in those conditions would have been something I loathed, but that year it seemed tolerable. It took us a few days to get everything purchased and wrapped, and by then it was Christmas Eve. We decided that on our way to Church we would drive by their house and leave the bags of gifts on the front porch. Being the time of year that it was, we were doing our deed under the cover of darkness. No one was home, which was perfect because we didn’t intend to say hello. My wife and I crept up to the porch and left the brightly colored packages near the door in a prominent place.
If my life depended on it, I couldn’t tell you the name of that family. And, I have no idea how things worked out for them because we never asked. And we never found out what they thought of the gifts. None of that mattered.
That year there was an extra measure of joy in our lives. We knew that we had made a difference, even if a small one, in the lives of people we didn’t know. To this day that is one of my fondest Christmas memories.
I don’t tell this story to toot my horn, or the horns of my family members. I tell this story because that week, more than most in my life, reminded me of the importance of this quote.
Today my reflection is on how we all can touch one another’s hearts in ways that we may never know or understand.