One of our family traditions started back in 1991. Like 2009, it was a lean holiday. Our son was born in April and just starting to wobble and our daughter just turned seven. All she wanted that year was a bike, a new two wheeler. But since my husband was on unemployment and I was not working outside the home at the time that was not going to be possible. And to add insult to injury everyday on our local news with the late great weatherman Mike Ambrose in San Diego, was an ongoing collection of bikes for the needy. And everyday they were tallying the new bike donations totals. There were shiny red tricycles and brand new ten-speeds filling up the news studio.
As Christmas approached and the money for presents was not presenting itself and as I continued to watch these bikes pile up and wanting one desperately for my daughter to find on her Christmas morning, I swallowed my pride and called the news station. I explained to the receptionist that I saw the bike collection going on and I wondered how one might go about getting one for their child. While I never considered (or would have admitted) that we were needy I explained our situation and she gave me a number to call. It was for the Salvation Army. They asked me a few questions, like how many were in our family, what our ages were, stuff like that. Then she gave me an appointment to go and pick up our bike.
The next day my husband and I drove to a warehouse where we were directed to a line to wait and as our turn came up we were given a brand new stingray bike with pink and white streamers on the handle bars. I had told the person on the phone we had enough food and our rent was paid we didn't need much but the bike for my daughter would be all we would think to ask for. Still, in addition to the bike we were given some toys for the baby and a box of food stuffs. Some basics, like some rice and some canned goods. We humbly accepted the generosity. We used up the canned goods except for one. It was a can of vegetarian mock duck. It must have been donated from someone who shopped at an oriental market. It was quite an unusual thing. We marveled at what it could possibly be. We searched for an ingredients list. Gluten flour and water. We shared many good laughs over that little can of mock duck. I knew we would never eat such a thing but I felt it held too precious a meaning to toss it out. Someone had shared their fare for our welfare and benefit and I had no right on earth to snub my nose at such an act of kindness. I wrapped the can in some leftover tissue paper and placed it in a box with the rest of the holiday decorations. Every year since then it has made the rounds as the annual gag gift between us. When it is opened by the unsuspecting recipient, we all laugh the same laugh again and retell the story of the great generosity that was given to us.
My wish is that everyone makes the time to pause and appreciate those precious gifts we share with each other.