A Trend of Generosity

I’ve noticed a rising phenomenon in our social media. Once it hits critical mass, it’ll be interesting to see what direction it takes.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the trend. Someone posts a personal story of misfortune or mistreatment. Others express sympathy and/or indignation, then share the story throughout social media until it officially goes viral. Generous people set up a PayPal account, or some other means of giving money, and the gifts pour in. The person responds with astonishment and thankfulness.

Everyone feels good. Everyone wins.

Except…

Sometimes the story proves fake. By the time the givers learn this, their money is gone. Another instance of need or injustice pops up, but this time they’re not so quick to pull out the credit card. They have big hearts and love to help, but they want to give to a real need. Not a scam.

Takers are good at figuring out how to milk any system. If I’ve seen the sob-story potential in the social media, they surely have, too. Right now, I know of several stories that touch off my “suspect” button, and this gives me the idea that the trickle of those taking advantage is on its way to becoming a torrent.

So, everyone loses.

Except…

Givers never really lose. When David and I show up with his wheelchair, I see kindness all around us. People are eager to open doors or help in any way they can, and their acts of generosity benefit them even more than they do us. I watch it happen. I feel it happen to myself when I give, and I’ve been scammed more than once.

If I’m right, and the trickle becomes a torrent, it’ll be interesting to see how we deal with that. Because takers are clever, but givers have wise hearts.

On the Road

The best road sign I’ve ever seen was in Texas.

As David and I drove into Dallas, we ran into a snarl of roadwork. First came a typical construction sign: “Left lane closed ahead.” Obediently, we shifted to the right. After a while, we got another heads-up: “Two left lanes closed ahead.” We edged farther right and made it past the lineup of orange cones. Then, maybe half a mile later: “Right lane closed ahead.” We shifted left again.

This went on for a while, back and forth, the warnings coming closer and closer together. Then a final sign rolled into view: “Various lanes closed ahead.”

In other words, you’re on your own. Have fun figuring it out.

Now, that’s life!

What If

Our refrigerator was to blame. It really was. Sometimes I stand in front of it and say, “You know, I could hate you.”

But I don’t. It’s a good refrigerator, and I like it. We’re not getting rid of it.

David and I bought this old house when the previous owner gave up her plan of opening it as a bed & breakfast. She’d already done the big work, like electricity, plumbing, heat and air conditioning, remodeled bathrooms and kitchen.

I especially love our kitchen. It glows with morning sun and is beautifully designed, the most workable kitchen I’ve ever had. But the only space for a refrigerator snugs up against a cabinet, and the one that came with the house was an enormous side-by-side. Instead of opening all the way, the freezer door thunked to a stop at a ninety-degree angle.

After a couple of months, I was fed up with blindly slithering my arm into the freezer and coming out with surprises. I’m not a great cook anyway, and this didn’t help.

“I give up,” I told David, waving a package of frozen peas that was supposed to be a chicken. “Let’s replace this monster.”

So we did. We chose a smaller one, with doors that open away from the cabinet and can swing wide.

The new refrigerator was to arrive early Tuesday morning. David and I planned to get it settled in, then drive to work together for a meeting. But – surprise, surprise – time for us to leave, and still no delivery guys. At the last minute, David took off on his bicycle. He’d wanted the car, since he also had a lunch appointment that would require travel, but I still hoped to make it to our meeting if the guys brought the refrigerator in time. (They didn’t.)

A common experience. Who hasn’t had one like it?

This time, though, the consequences went deep. On his way home from work that afternoon, David skidded on gravel and launched off his bicycle, onto a rock and into his new life as a quadriplegic.

As you can imagine, that leaves me with a whole list of what-ifs. They start broad and fairly painless: What if we hadn’t moved here? What if we’d bought a different house? What if the previous owner had left a more appropriate refrigerator? What if the delivery guys had been on schedule? What if David hadn’t wanted to save money by downsizing to just one car?

Then the items get sharper: What if I hadn’t fussed about the old refrigerator? What if I hadn’t pushed to buy a new one? What if I’d told David to take the car that day instead of keeping it for myself?

That last one really pierces. After cycling to and from his lunch appointment, he was probably tired and less able to avoid the accident. If he’d had the car . . . if I hadn’t been so selfish . . .

I’m aware that what-ifs serve no purpose except to scourge the soul. I’ve been that route before, and it never takes you where you need to go. So the third time I caught myself standing in front of the refrigerator, running the list through my mind, I said aloud, “Can’t go there.”

Hard things happen. That’s just life. And whenever the urge to what-if comes up for this particular hard thing, I know exactly what to do with it.

Blame the refrigerator. It doesn’t mind.

To Santa or Not to Santa?

I grew up with the myth and did fine with it. But David and I decided we wanted our daughter to get the true story. “Santa Claus is fun,” we told her, “but he isn’t real. He’s based on someone who is, though, and that’s an even better story.”

Kumari stared up with puzzled dark eyes. “Who?”

“A man named Nicholas. He gave gifts to people who needed them. He loved God, and he gave the gifts secretly, in Jesus’ name. People called him St. Nicholas, and that’s where we get the name Santa Claus.”

She thought that over. “Does he live at the North Pole?”

“No, he isn’t alive now. He died many, many years ago.”

She liked the story. She asked lots of questions, and that night we heard her telling her stuffed animals about St. Nicholas. She didn’t have all the details straight, but not bad.

A few days later, a friend whose birthday fell on Christmas invited our daughter to her party. The festivities were to end with a horse-drawn “sleigh” ride along Main Street, and I joined other parents at the drop-off point to collect our children. The wagon pulled up. Little girls piled off and headed for their parents. Some looked outraged. Others were weeping. All poured out their grievance as soon as they reached their parents, and I kept hearing the name “Kumari.”

Uh-oh.

Our daughter joined me, chin up, expression unhappy and defensive. Not until we were in the car and driving home would she talk about what had happened.

As it turned out, the birthday girl’s grandfather had gone along dressed as Santa. During the ride, he invited each guest to sit on his lap and tell him what she wanted for Christmas. All went well until our daughter’s turn. She stood in front of Santa, studying him suspiciously. Everyone turned to see what was wrong.

At last she spoke. “I thought you were dead. I thought you died years ago.”

The wail of horrified protest set the horses trotting.

Merry Christmas, everybody. And good luck explaining that one.