Sunday, December 11, 2011

A simple way to help another family this holiday season

A reader, Lynne, shared the below letter with me, which she'd sent to her local radio station, The Point 97.1 in Las Vegas, for their "Holiday Help" drive. I found her words and spirit totally inspiring. Yes, it was a good reminder to count my blessings—and also of just how strong the power of doing good is. I kept thinking about her line, "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you." There is nothing like helping other people to remind you of what matters most in this world.

My friend Jill at Scary Mommy did this wonderful Project Thanksgiving fundraiser where she matched up moms in need with moms who could afford to send $25. I'm going to follow in her lead and say that if any of you could use some help this holiday season because of your financial situation, please email me; I will keep your information private, and share only your email with the person who's purchasing a gift card. And if any of you are able to help another family with a $25 Amazon card, leave a note below and make sure your email is visible in your blog profile or email me, and I will match you up with a mom. I can't promise I will have enough matches, but I hope to be able to help as many people as I can.

And now, Lynne's letter:

I saw this on your website. For the first time in my life (I'm 53) I found myself on Unemployment when my job was eliminated. That was in 2010.

I am still unemployed and have no more benefits. I also lost my health insurance and have to pay for medical care in cash which I have needed the last few months. This however is not meant to be a sob story but an uplifting one.

In light of the fact that I still have a home with water, heat etc. I realize I am a blessed person indeed.

Whenever I can afford it I have cooked a large quantity of food and gone to the Homeless Corridor with a car full of dinners. I realize how fortunate I still am. A group of us went down there on Thanksgiving and passed out new pairs of socks. Couldn't donate as many as I would have liked, but I did donate some.

Yesterday there was a homeless guy in a fast food place which shall remain nameless and he was just sitting there because he was cold. There were a ton of empty tables anyway. The manager was telling a staff person he needed to go kick the guy out.

So I just interjected myself and said "Please do not throw him out. He is my guest and we are having lunch". And so I bought two plates of food and something to drink for him. The gratitude on his face was the best gift I could have received.

It looked like he had not eaten in a week. When he was done I gave him my leftovers in a takeout box and bus fare to the shelter.

He was very appreciative, but I said "Don't thank ME, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you. That's what being a human being is all about, and not just at this time of year." So off he went with his dirty knapsack and his carefully packed food that he was going to save for dinner. Experiences like that make me realize how fortunate I am. I came home and made a list:

1. I still have a home

2. I have heat and hot water

3. I have a car.

4. This year has been the first time since I moved to America in 2001 that I have used food banks. It has given me an appreciation of the generosity of people. I don't let myself feel ashamed to do this, because many times I have been in a position to donate food to food banks. Just not this year.

5. I don't have a job but I have a good education and many skills and someday I will get another job.

6. I am not in the cycle of drug/alcohol addiction that sends so many people to the world of being homeless.

7. I can still give a bit of help to people with less.

A beautiful note, right? Max and I sent Lynne an Amazon card (well, he clicked "Place Your Order"). And so, I hope those of you who could use a little something to make the holidays happier will reach out—and I hope that those of you who are able to help will.

UPDATE: This holiday drive is now over. Many thanks to all of you who gave gift cards; close to $2000 made it into the hands of families who needed a little help this season.



  1. Ellen, thank you for posting Lynn's letter and for managing the match-up. I'm in!

    As someone who regularly spends time with folks at our local food pantry and Community Table meal, I resonate with Lynn when she says "thank you for giving me the opportunity."

    Giving and gratitude and connection with people are the great enriching blessings of life.

    And that's true for our kids with special needs, too.
    Here's a post on why volunteering is great for kids with special needs. And how to get started. It's tailored to teens - but kids of any age and ability can benefit in many ways from serving others.

    Here's to serving and sharing! Blessings to all!

  2. Thanks, Mary! You are the first match-up. I'll be in touch with the email of a mom who could use a little help this season.

    That's an excellent post you wrote on volunteering. I know it's geared toward older kids, but there are good points there for younger kids, too.

  3. Count me in!! My daughter has autism and I'm extremely thankful she has some verbal skills, when so many others will never utter a word. We must always strive to focus on the haves, instead of the have nots. Count me in to help.

    Betsy at

  4. I can help. "thank you for giving me the opportunity to help"....Matthew 6:3-4

  5. Thanks to those of you who are offering to help. Gevans8, please email me if you want to forge ahead!

  6. please count me in. i would love to provide a gift card for a family in need. despite being unemployed, i still have so much more than i need and am completely blessed.

  7. count me in too (i will email you) loved what jill did at thanksgiving and what you and some other bloggers are doing this holiday season to match folks up.

    it's so inspiring the difference a person can make with a computer and some follow-through - i would never make the matches happen bc what i have in spirit i do not have in organizational skills! so thank you, ellen!

  8. I'd love to help Ellen! What a fabulous thing to do. Thanks for sharing the opportunity!

  9. Thank you for organizing this opportunity. Would love to help! lys76 at msn dot com

  10. Please count me

  11. Please count me in- and thanks for organizing this (and all else you do), Ellen. You have my e-mail. :-)

  12. I want to help. Thank you for organizing!

  13. I would love to help! -- beth --at-- morgbert --dot-- com


Thanks for sharing!

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