I was raised by my grandmother in a house with six other children—two were my brothers and four were my cousins. For all of us, our Moms and Dads were not active in our lives at that time so our grandmother took us in to raise us. Though it was a bumpy and far from perfect life, the one thing that was always perfect was Christmas.
Christmas day every year, from the day my grandmother took us in in elementary school to the day she passed away my freshman year of high school, was nothing short of amazing. We would wake up to a Christmas tree full of an entire multitude of gifts! Of course Christmas isn’t always about gifts, but we were kids – and let’s be honest, no matter how much we try and teach our kids the true meaning of the season, receiving gifts is still a huge part of it for them.
So how did a woman in her 50’s, raising seven kids while living on food stamps and other governmental assistance be able to provide her grandkids with THE best Christmases ever? The answer is simple: because there were people out there who paid it forward.
I always joke with people and say I never knew I was poor growing up. Sure, I knew we didn’t have the best things but my grandmother ensured that we never went without. If that meant she had to get on government assistance, she did it. If that meant we had to crawl over the front seat to get into the back seat because the back doors wouldn’t open, we did it. If that meant that my grandmother went to hell and back to find an organization to give us the best Christmas ever, she did it. And in fact, I still remember that organization today.
The Leaman Container, Inc. of Fort Worth, TX, adopted all seven of us every year and gifted us with the best gifts. We had scooters, and bikes, radios and TV’s, board games, CD players, clothes, shoes, undergarments, and a whole host of other things. We NEVER went without anything for Christmas.
Now at the tender young age of 29 (haha), every year I reflect back on those Christmases overflowing with gifts of love from The Leaman Container organization. Except now that I’m older, I see it differently. No longer do I see days full of presents that went from the ground to the ceiling. Instead, I now see it for what it really was – people blessing us with blessings that were far more abundant than my childish mind could’ve even fathomed at that time.
You see, the true meaning of the season, is to give of yourself like God had given to us. Those people at Leaman Container, Inc., gave of themselves—financially, physically, and emotionally— to ensure that my family was able to have something to open for Christmas. My charge now as an adult is to ensure that I do exactly the same.
Therefore, every year, I adopt an angel or two from The Salvation Army or Angel Tree. For each of those angels, I purchase everything that is listed on their tag, and sometimes above and beyond what is listed. I was able to have so many pleasant memories of Christmas because someone did the exact same thing for me. Therefore, it my OBLIGATION to bless someone else now that I have the means and am capable of doing the same. It is my DUTY to PAY IT FORWARD.
However, I don’t just do this at Christmas. I do this in a variety of areas in my life. I remember that I had family who let me crash on their couches during my college struggle years or sent me care packages and money when I didn’t have it (man I don’t miss those struggling college student days haha). Because they did it for me, I try to do the same now for those coming up around me. I send care packages, encouraging notes and sometimes money to my family members who are now going through the very ranks that I went through only a few short years ago. Additionally, every year for my birthday, I partner with a local charity and have my friends bring items to give to that charity instead of bringing me a gift. Last year, we donated canned goods and other perishables to Minnie’s Food Pantry in Dallas, TX, and this year we donated clothes to a local not-for-profit, Courtney’s Closet (who is a close family friend).
But what about you? What are you doing to pay it forward in the lives of others? Perhaps you had a similar upbringing like I did and if it were not but for the people out there that pulled your name off of a tree in a mall then you would’ve had some not-so-great memories? Perhaps you had a great upbringing full of love and family and now you are blessed to have an abundant income to be able to impact the life of someone else? Maybe you can’t buy someone gifts but you know that you can contribute of your time and mentor some young woman or young man out there as someone else mentored you?
Whatever it is, if someone did it for you, then it is both your OBLIGATION and your DUTY to PAY IT FORWARD. After all, tis the season!
I just want to take this time to thank all of those individuals from The Leaman Container, Inc. of Fort Worth, TX, who showered my family with love each and every year. Your gifts and acts of kindness toward us has not been forgotten. I am so grateful for people like you in this world and I hope that this blog will cultivate more individuals out there to touch the lives of many just as you all have touched mine. Merry Christmas to you all and to everyone who is reading this post!
Photo by Ben White