The Thursday Night Club, Episode 2: Christmas in October
My grandfather used to tell me, “When you dig someone out of their troubles, you’ll always find a place to bury your own.” It took many years—and some pretty dark roads traveled—before I understood this priceless lesson.
In the early 90s, I was struggling terribly with PTSD; working as a prison investigator while trying to heal from war. Overwhelmed with anxiety and depression, I focused on getting through one day at a time. Anything more than that was just too overwhelming. When I look back now, I’m still amazed that I endured the constant anguish.
One afternoon, I read a newspaper article entitled, “Helping Hands.” Essentially, it was a plea from the Salvation Army, highlighting families that required sponsorship for the holidays; folks who had children and very little means to provide a decent Christmas. I immediately volunteered our Investigation Unit to sponsor a single mom and her two young sons. What transpired from that was nothing less than a miracle.
Not just eight men, but eight families came together to donate everything from a decorated Christmas tree and wrapped presents to a full ham dinner with all the fixings and three winter coats. On the day of the delivery, I borrowed a Santa suit before we headed off to the housing project. That young mother wept with gratitude, while her two boys watched in awe. “See,” she told her sons, as I filled the tree with presents, “all you have to do is believe.” Concealing my own tears, for the first time—in a very long time—I could breathe. Dressed as Father Christmas, I left that apartment feeling 50 pounds lighter.
Out on the sidewalk, I instantly realized that those two small boys received so much more than food and toys; they were given a sense of awe and confirmation of their young faith. They were gifted with a valid reason to never abandon hope, and solid proof that they were never alone. They were presented with the magic of the human will when it was convicted to place another before itself, and a memory of the simple beauty that lay beneath the ugly defensive walls of humankind. In essence, they were shown love.
And so was I.
I’m not quite sure why I waited until Christmas to do something good for somebody who could never return the favor. Realizing, I can do this at any time, has been a real game changer for me.
“When you dig someone out of their troubles,” Grampa used to tell me, “you’ll always find a place to bury your own.” He was so right.
I needed this experience, with all of the feelings that came with it, in order to write The Thursday Night Club.
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