“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
After the shooting that quote sprung up everywhere, and I couldn’t read it without tears. I found peace and comfort in looking for the helpers. But I also find hope and joy in choosing to be a helper. Having a cause to fall into during the wake of this tragedy, a time of year that is rife with the reality of others poverty and struggling, and a time where the need to get pulled out of my own selfishness is huge. The giving tree has been a lifeline; a project to put positive effort into, a way to take the weight of sadness for the grief and robbery of joy from those families and try to give some joy back into the family community.
Last year a giving tree sprung up organically from the Mama Network I help to moderate in my town. This year it grew, and grew, and grew. Last year our tree served 33 kids. This year? 95. Last year we raised $400. This year? We raised $867+ and the Black Drop Coffee House (who was instrumental in the whole endeavour and housed the physical tree!) matched this donation and in total we raised $1735. That money went directly into gift cards for the Mamas of the kids on the tree. It is obvious that the needs are huge, but the piece of this tree that is so epically beautiful is that the desire to help is even bigger.
Today I walked down a long set of stairs and into a cozy basement. White Christmas played, mimosas and bloody Mary’s were mixed, and Moms who previously only knew each other’s profile pictures went from “friends” to friends. The room filled with bags (and bags and bags) of gifts and warm bodies, tiny babies, and huge smiles. This room was bursting with Helpers. Bellingham, my town, is overflowing with Helpers. These Mamas wrapped bags and bags of toys and donated their time, energy, and tape to this cause.
95 kids worth of gifts were given, and these gifts were sweet. They weren’t generic, they weren’t used, they weren’t junk. These gifts were thought about. Bought by awesome Moms, sweet kids, incredible people who choose to give out of their poverty instead of clinging tight to possessions. They were given by customers who dropped in, city counsel men, loving baristas, thoughtful 20-somethings who picked their tag off the tree carefully. They were given by loads and loads of Helpers.
This year our tree grew. Tonight 19 families came and picked up their gifts, tomorrow 30 more will come. And Christmas morning there are going to be some very merry children.
A dear friend told me she had picked up a tag from the tree. A 9 year old girl. She chose her gifts carefully, cute clothes she would want to wear, headbands that would go with each outfit, and books that she had treasured when she was 9. I wrapped those gifts today and nearly lost it thinking about how incredibly special this wholly unknown bond would be. This girl will never know my friend. She may be old enough to know these gifts didn’t come from Santa, or her Mom, but from an earth angel who took the time to care, give, indulge, and pour over her.
This little (not so little) tree is giving me a place to be a Helper. A place to look and see that there is so much good. That there are countless people who want to help. That there is huge need in this community but that it can be matched by huge generosity.
Thank you Bellingham. Thank you for being packed to the gills with the good ones. The Helpers. I love my community.