Just about this time last year my friend Terri took her mother to dinner at their favorite restaurant. Buffet-style Southern cooking in the truest sense, complete with a hunk of fat in the green beans. All you can eat for only ten dollars. A steal. They ate and enjoyed the sort of company that only a mother and daughter can. They talked and laughed and tried to both remember and forget.
Then it happened.
Halfway through her chicken fried steak, Terri happened to look up and find the smile that had been on her mother’s face was gone, replaced by a pained look of perplexity. Her mother had put her knife and fork down to take a sip of tea and had forgotten how to use them. Still unsure but still hungry, she did what seemed most logical—she scooped a handful of fried apples into one hand, a handful of corn pudding into the other, and continued eating.
“It was like having a three-year-old at the table again,” Terri told me.
I suppose that was the case. Alzheimer’s has a way of reducing adults to children in a tortuous rewinding of the mind’s timepiece.
Terri never noticed the man sitting alone in the booth across from them. Never saw him watching as she carefully moved to her mother’s side, cleaned off the apples and the corn, and then proceeded to feed her. She never saw him smile as she and her mother continued right on with their laughter and conversation.
But she did see him rise from his booth and make his way to their table.
“I’ve never seen a daughter so full of patience and a mother so full of love,” he told her. “It’d be an honor if I could pay for your meal.”
He placed a ten dollar bill on the table, smiled, and left.
That small act of kindness and appreciation could have ended there, but it didn’t. Terri and her mother now had ten dollars they didn’t feel they deserved. Using the money to pay for their meal wouldn’t do, then. But what would? After much discussion, they decided to donate the money to the local food bank. Ten dollars bought four canned hams. Four hams for four families who would otherwise go without. And no one should go without, especially during the holidays.
That’s the story of the ten dollar blessing. And it’s gotten me thinking.
I’ve heard tell that life is all about circles, about beginning and ending and beginning again. I think there’s something to that. And not just when it comes to life, but when it comes to what’s been bestowed to us. A stranger in a small-town restaurant felt blessed enough by watching a daughter care for her mother to pay for their meal. That daughter and mother in turn felt blessed enough by him to give the money to those in need. They continued the circle, and by doing so they revealed one of the great truths of existence—
God does not intend for us to be the keepers of our blessings, but mere borrowers of them.
It’s no secret this has been a tough year for most everyone. Money’s tight and jobs are scarce. But even more than that there seems to be a thick fog of cynicism hanging over us. We’re tired. Stressed. Afraid. We’re running low on the essentials—hope and faith and the power of grace.
So this year I’m proposing a return to what Christmas really means—the giving of a gift without the expectation of return. An expression of love and encouragement. A lifting up of the spirit.
Sometimes the best way to pick yourself up is to pick up someone else. And in that light, I’m asking for a favor. I’m asking that you set aside a few dollars and bless someone. It doesn’t have to be ten, doesn’t have to be five. Let it be as much or as little as your situation deems possible. The amount doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with what you have.
In the coming weeks katdish and I will set up a blog carnival for you to share what you did, whom you blessed, and how it changed you. And trust me, it will change you.
‘Tis the season for joy and song and laughter. For miracles. And it’s come at just the right time, because there are many who need all four. Yet while we pray for God’s blessing and while we embrace that Christmas magic, let’s not forget that God often gives joy and song and laughter not through the divine intervention, but through the feeble hands of mere mortals like you and me.