Gifts Freely Given
My wife was hospitalized due to serious pregnancy complications, which took precedence over every other aspect of my life. I divided my time between the hospital and work, letting all other concerns fade.
Among those concerns was a lone bag of warm clothing and blankets generously donated at our Project Warmth Living Room Concert (LRC) earlier that year. I had decided to personally distribute this bag to those in need. I planned on taking it into downtown San Diego, but it seemed unlikely that I would be able to find a person to give these goods. As fate would have it, such a person found me.
Since my wife was facing a long stay in the hospital, I brought her as much I could from home to comfort her. Packing the car I noticed the Project Warmth bag, but had no time to spare that day. Mornings were brutal in terms of parking at the hospital, so parked in the side lot of an adjacent grocery store. The next few moments of my life are amongst the most remarkable in my life.
While unloading the car, I noticed a woman rounding the corner, dressed in the multi-layered fashion of a street person and clutching a bundle of black plastic trash bags. She walked with a slight limp and I could see scrapes covering her face and hands. 30 feet away she still eyed me nervously.
I called out to her, asking if she had need of warm clothing. She paused, uncertain how to respond to me. I asked her if she had a warm jacket or blanket for the winter. She admitted to having only two thin sweaters to put on over what she was already wearing. I pulled out the bag and half spilled its contents out. I said that she was welcome to anything she could use and explained why I was freely giving them. She hesitated, but drew nearer, pensively. I found a heavy woman's ski jacket in the bag and held it out to her. She so mistrusted other human beings that she could not come within ten feet of me. I laid the jacket down on the bag and stepped back to let her examine it.
Keeping her eyes on me, she reached the bag and found the ski jacket to be a good fit (even over her layers). Forgetting myself, I excitedly dove into the bag for a new blanket I had seen earlier. When I rose to hand her the blanket, I saw that she was crying and smiling.
At that moment all the emotional stress I had suppressed throughout my wife's hospitalization broke free. Weeping myself, I couldn't form the words to offer her the blanket, so I just pressed it toward her. She accepted the blanket, saying "thank you" over and over again as she clutched the bundle to her chest. She then hurried off across the parking lot — almost as if she feared the moment when I would reveal the trap or cruel joke that I was playing.
I can still hear her saying "thank you," but I fear she never heard the thanks I gave her. In all of my concern and worry, I had lost sight of who I meant to be in life, why I choose to be available to those in need, and that I in turn could benefit from the aid of others (whether physical or spiritual).
It cost me very little to offer those things to her, but she risked a great deal to share her hope with me. I have always felt the affirmation of having done a good deed, but this touched my soul. I wish that every human being could experience the purpose and sheer joy of kindness that I shared with that woman. I still wonder to this day who received the greater of the gifts freely given that day.
(For more information on organizations that can help you clothe someone in need, go to our basic needs page.)
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