The Spirit of Giving When it Really Counts.
It's hard to miss all the supply change worry plastered over the news, social media, and radio. We see the results when we head out to the stores. We hear so much of what we won't be able to have. At times chatter about supply chain issues increases so much, and people's worries begin to build to an almost frantic concern to get out and buy because they won't have enough. A lack of food, toilet paper, and electronics, and more continue to agonize over what they cant get access to and that they won't have what they want for Christmas. You may have found yourself feeling this way, and I am guilty of getting lost in this myself.
To help remind us that there is more to life than material things and that the holiday season is more significant than gifts under a tree. This Giving Tuesday, I want to share an experience I had with my oldest son when he was eight years old. I recall this profound moment each year around the holidays. Remembering this time helps reset my thinking and get me back on track for the true meaning of giving.
Around Thanksgiving time in 2015, the weather was windy and freezing, as is often in upstate New York. The roads were treacherous, and schools were closed for a snow day. I had been promising Aidan that we would sneak away for a special mother and son breakfast at a diner just the two of us. We both wanted to try a place in East Syracuse, and that day seemed like the perfect time to venture out in the cold to warm up on pancakes and eggs. It was a busy morning at the diner, and Aidan and I grabbed one of the last open tables. As soon as we sat down, I noticed that the woman sitting beside us was all alone with tears streaming down her face. She was frantically texting and trying to make calls with no response. Her body was shaking, and I had the overwhelming feeling that she was hurting and in a very dark place at that moment. Aidan and I placed our orders and started to talk while we waited for our meal. As we sat there, the woman appeared to get more upset and shook while hiding her head as she held a cup of coffee.
A waitress stopped at her table, and the woman asked how much the coffee was; she started to look for money. At first, it appeared that she did have any change. Then, feeling a bit intrusive, I leaned over toward the woman and offered to pay for her coffee. She politely declined my offer, turned her head back to her coffee, and continued to try and make more calls and sob. Finally, a call went through. She started to argue with the person on the other end, and her distress grew more profound, and the other diners were staring and giving her annoyed and dismissive looks. At this point, I could not shake the feeling of her pain. I did not know what I could do to help. Yet to me, she needed some intervention. Because the morning was so busy, our food was taking a while to get to the table. So I asked my son to stay seated while I checked on our order. I walked up to the diner owner and asked if he could add some pancakes and sausage to my bill and serve it to the woman sitting by herself. Arriving back at my table, the woman was packing up her belongings, then stood up and headed for the exit. I was worried about her as she started to leave. I missed the opportunity to help because I had felt that I should not butt into her private life.
Just before she walked out the door, the owner stopped her. I could see that he was talking with her and pointed toward my table. The woman turned her head and walked over to my table. She told me that the owner said I had ordered her pancakes and sausage, and she wanted to know why and thank me. I let her know that she seemed so sad, and I thought pancakes make everyone feel better. At that moment, the waitress brought our food. She sat back down and gobbled it up and told me that she was famished.
Aidan and I started to eat; she came and sat down by my side, crying hard. I began to rub her back at that moment, and she told me that I had saved her life today. I was not expecting her response. She told me that she had been trying to get clean from drugs and was sitting in the diner for about two hours before we came in and was planning on using all her money to buy enough drugs to end it all. The woman told me that we stopped her from making a horrible decision. She had been trying to reach out to people for help, but no one answered her calls—she then went into a story of why she was at the diner. I talked with her about who she could go to for help and if she was safe to return home. The woman thanked me again and asked for my name. I told her it was Brie and introduced her to my son. She said her name was Bridget, and I shook her hand. Bridget told me she would leave and thanked me once more, and I wished her a Happy Thanksgiving and hoped life would find her well, and she left.
A couple of minutes later, one of the waitresses came over to my table. She informed me that Bridgett had told her that I had saved her life that day before she had left, and she paid for our entire meal. Aidan and I finished up our breakfast, and on our drive home, I helped him decompress from the emotional experience that morning. I talked with him about what it means to help others, that I was nervous about being intrusive on her struggles and that she would be angry for me butting in. I was curious how no other person in the diner was going to reach out to help. Mostly they looked bothered by her pain. But if we were brave enough to get past our worries and self-doubts, we have the chance to make a difference, and one small act of kindness has the potential to save someone's life.
While we may not be able to get all those gifts we wish to give, there is something ever greater we can share this holiday season. Peace on earth and goodwill to all with selfless acts of kindness to those young and old. We may never see what our good deeds will do. But know they make a world of difference to those in need.
When we sit at our tables with family and friends and think of those we cannot be with, we are loved and lucky even amongst your most challenging days. Look out for one another. No one should ever be alone. There will be someone who needs your selfless compassion, and someday you may be the one who needs help in return. We are all in this life together, so let us make it one of beauty and love.
Wishing you all safe, healthy days filled with peace and love this holiday season.