Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twelve Gifts: #7 – ANONYMITY

When I was in high school I had a friend from work who was older, in college, and already had her own apartment. When she went home for Christmas, she asked me to house sit for her. I LOVED “playing house” over there, having a quiet place to sit and read or listen to music. I even had fun cleaning.

She had left in a bit of a rush, so every day when I went over I tried to put a few things away for her, wash the dishes, scrub the stove, sweep, dust vacuum. At the end of the two weeks I brought her home from the airport and when she walked into her apartment she exclaimed, (and I quote) “Thank heaven I cleaned before I left!” That was just about my favorite thing ever. At first I thought, "Now wait a minute..." But then I saw the happiness and relief on her face, heard it in her voice. And that was recognition enough. It actually made me extra happy that she had no idea I’d done all that for her. My service was anonymous. And there was a certain joy that came along with that I’d never really experienced before.

About seven years ago I felt it from a whole new perspective. Design work had been slow (sometimes non-existent), and being self-employed, there was no steady income. Jeff had been out of work for about six months, and we were really feeling the pinch. We miraculously scraped together enough money to cover the mortgage every month, and put food on the table, but little else. It wasn’t looking too good for Christmas.

But on the 14th of December a package showed up on our porch...and then another. Two different people delivered “Twelve Days of Christmas” packages to our doorstep every single day for the next 12 days. Reading the notes and discovering the surprises was delightful! The children loved it too. We couldn’t wait to come home and see what had been left for us each night. Some of them were funny -- like ten rolls of toilet paper! Others were so thoughtful: My favorite lipstick. Matching mugs for hot chocolate. One day it was a collection of Christmas poems and stories. Another day it was a gift certificate to a favorite taco stand! So much fun!

On Christmas Eve I literally wept as I opened the door and found not just a dozen doughnuts or some other trinkets, but gifts for everyone in the family, wrapped and ready to put under the tree. I was stunned. Overwhelmed.

Now, here’s the best part: We never found out who the givers were. I have my suspicions. But it remains a mystery. And here’s what happened that I never could have predicted: As we started to guess, “Could it have been her?” “I wonder if it was THAT family” “Maybe it was our neighbors down on Topeka Street...or those friends from church...” All those musings caused us to reach out more, to be a little bit kinder. Because we loved our mysterious givers, whoever they were, we wanted to be extra kind and gracious to them. And because it could have been virtually ANYONE...we felt this humbled, grateful sweetness toward EVERYONE. It was the best feeling in the world.

No wonder Jesus said, “...let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,” promising that whatever we give in secret will be richly and openly rewarded. As usual, He wants us all, givers and receivers, to be deliriously happy. And it works.


LisAway said...

What a wonderful story. I just love how your perpspective changed a little, knowing that someone had done something wonderful for your family! May we always treat everyone as though they've done something wonderful for us!!

Someone did the 12 days of Christmas for us just after Evie was born and Greg still hadn't found a good job after graduating. It was so super nice.'

And I'm really VERY impressed with your reaction to your friend. That's what we call true service!

Kazzy said...

Like Lisa I am impressed that you didn't claim responsibility for the cleaned apartment. But it was YOU, so... :)

I LOVE the anonymous giving. We haven't done it often enough. My friend who is 55 and the RS Pres in her ward told me how she was out delivering 11 gift cards, anonymously, on a snowy night last year, and as she would get out of the car to stick them on the door and run, her husband would pull away in the car and she would have to run full speed to catch him. The stinker! But she said they laughed and had a ball!

Thank for your great post! You do such a great job.

Heidi Ashworth said...

I have been on both sides of this and it is the best thing about Christmas--ever!

Melanie J said...

I'm beginning to discover the joy of anonymous giving. It's something I'm going to strive harder to embrace. I love this story. You're such a good writer.

Heather of the EO said...

I love it. During this whole crazy time with Asher people have done the nicest things. Some of them anonymously, including a pizza delivered to our door an hour or so before dinner time one night. It was so sweet and simple and so needed. And I'm still so curious. (:

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow, I love this. how beautiful that someone did this for you and remained anonymous. And I've loved catching up on your Twelve Gift posts. Hugs to you and yours this Christmas. xoxoxo

Mrs4444 said...

I love that you never found out! You are living proof that what goes around really does come around.

And here's where we are different; there is no way I could have kept my mouth shut when my friend came home and claimed all of that work as her own. Your selflessness is inspiring :)

Brillig said...

Oh my goodness, what amazing experiences-- both of them! How neat to have been on both ends of anonymous service. And you tell it so beautifully-- you make us all want to be more kind and gracious to everyone around us.

Dedee said...

That was beautiful, as always. You have given me a new perspective. It's a bit sad I hadn't seen it before, but that's what we're here for, to learn from each other, isn't it?