Saturday, December 25, 2010
Merry Christmas, You Wonderful Old Building and Loan!
Last week I told the story of the tragedy in my daughter's young family, and how circumstances just kept getting worse for them right before Christmas. I took a chance and asked you readers if you wouldn't mind contributing a couple of bucks apiece to help this family pay for their son's burial costs and hopefully even have a bit left over to pay for some of their own immediate needs.
So far we have received hundreds of responses to that request for two dollars, with some readers sending in substantially more. After only seven days, Amy and her little family have received from my readers an astonishing two thousand and seven dollars!
I posted that plea at five minutes to midnight on Friday the 17th, and when I got up six hours later, I was astonished to see that donations were already coming in through Paypal. By the end of that day, the contributions we were receiving through Paypal alone had totaled over twelve hundred dollars!
When I phoned Amy to tell her the news, I heard her go suddenly quiet. She was crying. We both were. We couldn't believe this was happening. Amy's family was suddenly and miraculously pulled from the abyss.
Although the primary reason for asking for this money was to pay the burial costs for their recently murdered son, I insisted that Tommy and Amy take the first thousand and use it for the family's immediate expenses. They fixed the car, bought some food, and paid the gas bill so they could stop heating their apartment by leaving on the electric oven at night.
Amy also bought something special just in time for Christmas: a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It's scrawny and pathetic and only two feet tall, and it has one red ornament hanging from one lonely branch. If there are mongrels in the tree world, this tree is it.
But don't feel sorry for her family; this is the Christmas tree she wanted. I mean she really wanted it. I don't know if you've seen this thing, but it's actually marketed as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, right down to the inclusion of that one red bulb. Even better, by the time she bought it, the tree had been marked down to just $3.99. So the family finally got the tree Amy had wanted that reflected the dismal circumstances they found themselves in this year.
My daughter has a delightful sense of the ironic.
Amy is determined to thank each of you personally, but there were many hundreds of contributors, so I hope you'll be patient if you don't hear from her right away. Some readers added personal notes, and others kindly re-posted that blog entry on their own Facebook pages and other forums so their friends would have the opportunity to assist also. For all of this I am eternally grateful. The entry has only been up for seven days, and if history is any indicator, again as many readers as we had in those days will come on here in the next two weeks. I have great hope that we can get Tommy's little family completely out of the woods by then.
You all have made a tremendous difference in the lives of that family. I can't begin to express how I feel toward you. Your astonishing generosity has simply floored me. Amy is not the only one who has wept at this astonishing display of love.
(I notice I have used the word "astonishing" a lot here so far. It's the word that keeps coming to mind. I'm just so dang astonished!)
Something I've learned from this experience is how many wonderful friends I have out there who I have never met. I began this blog just under two years ago to share my fairly recent discovery that love truly is the basis of the gospel of Christ. It may seem trite and obvious to some, but I never really grasped the importance of unconditional love until just about four years ago (I'm slower than most). Heretofore I had seen my religion as primarily one of strict rules and procedures, and I approved of that view. Then after a lifetime of devotion and obedience to the Church, I finally got around to experiencing "a mighty change." I had God all wrong. It wasn't obedience he wanted out of me, it was kindness.
One of the reasons I began this blog was from a desire to share my discoveries with others who were still stuck in that Pharisaical brand of Mormonism I had grown up believing in, the one represented by a mantra for obedience rather than what Restoration Theology was meant to be: a jumping off point leading to higher knowledge, which leads in turn to a true liberation of the soul. The beginning of that liberation comes from truly grasping the meaning of unconditional love.
This past week I got a powerful new lesson in unconditional. Not only have so many been willing to reach out with love to a young family in need that they didn't even know, but something else occurred here that has touched my heart in a profound way.
I've just learned I have many, many friends out there. You'll have to excuse me for being surprised, but the fact is, almost nobody I know personally reads this blog or cares much for anything I might have to say; No one in my current ward, no one in my former ward, and no one in the nearby ward I lived in for almost fifteen years. Many of these fine people are Facebook friends. They are aware that I write a blog about Mormon issues, but they won't read it. Some of the things I write about here make them uncomfortable, so they choose to not come back.
From some of the notes and messages accompanying the donations, I am beginning to realize that many of you donated to my daughter because in some inexplicable way you are actually honoring me. I wish I could come up with a way to say that so it sounded more humble, but there it is. I've learned I have thousands of true friends I didn't know about, strangers who value what I have to say and who would come to my rescue at the drop of a hat. When someone I hadn't known re-posted last week's entry on another Facebook site, several comments immediately appeared announcing they were contributing. Another someone I didn't know named Chris said "Done and done. His blog alone is worth the money."
That comment meant the world to me, and many have sent messages of appreciation echoing that sentiment these past days. Your friendship means the world to me. What means the most is your unconditional love, not only for me but for my daughter and her family; parents and kids you never met and probably never will meet. Yet you dropped everything and sent money at a time of year when I know money is short for everyone.
Thank you, my dear friends. Thank you for reaching out and loving us.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all for your kindness!
Your grateful friend,