A few days ago I received an anonymous gift. This is the story of how it unfolded and what has resulted. I quit blogging a while back when I just seemed to run out of hours in the day. I set a deadline this time though of 5:00pm on Sunday to throw out a thanks in whatever way I could to someone who did something for me that meant more than they’ll probably ever know. So I sat down a couple of hours ago and this is where it went.
Thursday afternoon I came home for lunch as I usually do. I’m fortunate; I live only 5 minutes from where I work and that allows me to step away from the office, clear my head, and eat whatever I have at home to save a bit of money rather than eat through my meager funds. Upon arriving I noticed that my mailbox was full. I’ve started checking the mail more regularly now that I’ve signed up with various manufacturers & coupon groups in hopes of “high value” coupons and coveted freebies. I also nearly missed another birthday party for the kids last weekend because I’d been avoiding checking the mail and was pretending to be blissfully unaware like the bills weren’t really there. That mistake left me in a frantic 30 minute rush on a Friday night to grab a gift and send my son to a birthday party so that he wouldn’t be the only kid left out of bouncing in the jump houses on a sugar high. I’ve been waiting for free samples to arrive and those are WAY more fun than the usual bills. My little mailbox was overflowing with various offers that I would have to sort through like a miner for gold, but there was not a single free coffee sample. The bills were thrown unopened into my nice little bill box, and I put the top back on it so that I wouldn’t have to look at them and spoil my appetite. Some would be opened next month and some would probably sit there until I got a friendly reminder from “Peter” who I’ve been robbing to pay “Paul.”
Buried in the middle of the bills, coupons and credit card offers was a white handwritten envelope. Oooh! I got all excited! Someone likes me and is inviting me somewhere. Someone is probably getting married, and I’m super happy for whoever it is but mainly because I’m going to eat SHRIMP I bet! And I’m going to have cocktails! And I’m going to visit with ADULTS that I haven’t seen in a long time and I am going to be FUN again! I am GOIN’ SOMEWHERE like Cinderella to the ball! I flipped over the envelope as I was opening it and discovered something odd. The return address ALSO had my name on it but with my office address below. Hmm. How did I do that? How did I manage to invite myself somewhere? OK, someone’s a ding-dong but that’s funny because that’s just like something I would do too! Someone must’ve just been in a hurry.
Inside was a brown card and on the front it said, “Sit Here. Think of you. Smile. Repeat.” “Oh. OK. It’s a thank you card,” I thought. “I must’ve given someone something, and they’re appreciative. That’s nice. It’s always nice to thank someone for being nice. I must be nice.” Inside the card was a plain white envelope and the handwritten words, “Thanks for the Facebook laughs. Have a safe Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas! –
an admirer. ok – a fan. it’s not like that! :)” Then I opened it… the plain white sealed envelope… and my hands started shaking… and I counted 5 crisp new $100 bills. I looked at the dog, and she looked back at me because I must’ve made a noise or something. And then I looked at the envelope again that I had thought was addressed to me because I must’ve been wrong. Nope. Nuh-uh. It had my name on it – front & back – with both my home and office addresses.
WHAT DID I DO!!?? And WHO could have done this?!? Was it a joke? Almost anything can be funny if you look at it the right way, but this wasn’t funny. This was serious. This was a LOT of money, and it must belong to someone. There are hungry people out there and I’ve still got red beans and sausage in the freezer from leftovers that my mom gives me when she cleans hers out. Oh yeah – I’m hungry now. Oh, yeah!! MOM! I can tell my mom! Who else am I going to tell because this is really awkward. Someone else needs to know what just happened here in case I get hit by a bus or something. It’s also not real yet unless I say it out loud and to someone else. So I called her. And she said WOW. And then she said it must be someone who thinks I’m funny. “Maybe it’s someone who knows you need the money,” she said. Then she asked who I thought it could be… and I realized that I didn’t want to know. Not yet. If I KNEW who it was then I might feel guilty because I must’ve said something to someone that made them feel sorry for me, and that’s just wrong and now I’m TOTALLY EMBARRASSED. Maybe I’d posted on facebook about not having a heater or air conditioning and someone figured out that I just couldn’t afford to fix it. Oh. My. God. What have I DONE?!? It was that damn screen shot I took of my bank account a while back I bet showing my $0 balance because it was ironically funny that my last few bucks had been spent on anxiety medicine. I had pondered aloud on facebook about positives and negatives and how everything evens out resulting in an exact balance of $0.00 in my checking account. But I deleted that post within an hour?!!? I deleted it because I thought that even though I had resolved to finding the humor in my situation, it may sound like I want people to feel sorry for me. Oh. My God. This is low. I’ve gone and poor talked my way somehow into acquiring funds that should probably have gone to the homeless and hungry. I must’ve somehow asked for it, and now here I am tasked with deciding what to do with it. Maybe I can figure out who did this, and I can just give it back. Surely I can narrow down the facebook friends into a reasonable pool of suspects who have both the means and the heart to do such a thing. And then it hit me… like a brick to the head. WHO AM I to do that??!? Who am I to assume anything about why someone would do such a thing?? Who am I to steal the wind from their sails and attempt to “out” someone who obviously went to great lengths to remain anonymous. My self-imposed guilt is all mine – not theirs. Who. Am. I?!? I’m a lot of things I guess, but right now I’m a tired struggling single mom who’s been trying to figure out how to make Christmas work for us this year while someone else just did that for me!!!!
I headed back to work with the intention of hiding out in whatever way one can in a glass enclosed office. Whoever sent this knows where I work and maybe they’ve seen me over the last few days scanning my face and behavior for any indication that I’d received their gift. I’m anything but predictable in my dramatic reactions so I just needed to lay low so that I don’t do something embarrassing. Here’s an idea: I should TOTALLY tell my boss and assistant, two “guy” guys that aren’t on facebook because I KNOW they weren’t the ones who did it. One of them will probably come up with something very practical to say that will diffuse all of my nervous energy and keep me from doing something SUPER DRAMATIC. Yep! That’s a STELLAR idea because I’ll walk away feeling WAAAAAY less awkward…
And then I did it. I pulled my male assistant and my male boss into the boss’s chambers to discuss my mail very dramatically as if the CIA were watching. I kind of live like reality tv cameras are following me, and they know this so they humored me and were patient. I checked the lobby for eavesdroppers and then sat down and very dramatically (without trying of course) WHIPPED the card out of my pocket. My minute-long preface had them staring at me wondering what had sufficiently freaked me out, and I’m sure they braced themselves for another bizarre story of one of my characters that I encounter around town that will probably make their way into the lobby at some point for a free cup of coffee or to tell me stories at my desk while I try to work. Nope. Nuh-uh. This was different. This time it was a MYSTERY and someone had managed to throw me off my game in a way that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to recover while still at work. So I plopped the card onto the desk and told them to read it. And they said, “Wow” and “That’s nice” and it was very anti-climatic. I had COMPLETELY forgotten that my intent in telling the guys was to settle myself down a bit so I started over again, and I explained that sometimes I write things and post pictures on facebook like the awkward moments after the dog has just spewed the contents of the lava lamp all over the floor, or I awake to find the kids setting up a lemonade stand in the yard, or the 1/2 price JUG of wine I discovered and purchased while sorting through Halloween sale candy to purchase with coupons and save for Christmas. And then I describe how I used to blog about everything before I got so busy that I didn’t know which way was up, and one of the guys says,
“What IS a blog?” to which the other replies, “People just write what they think about things and put it out on the internet so everyone can read it.”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe I should get a facebook page.”
“Yeah, I’m going to figure out how to update mine.”
OK, well they don’t totally get it yet so I asked what they thought I should do to somehow let the giver know that I’d received the card. And one said, “Just say on facebook, ‘Thanks to whoever sent the card'” Oh, OK. Because that’s TOTALLY my style of handling things, right? And THAT’S when it happened… the flood gates opened, and I CRIED. I cried in front of my boss and assistant. I could see by their body language now that this was going to develop into an emotional display that assaulted their manly senses as if I’d just sprayed them with perfume and just suggested we all sit down and do our nails together. One: I got emotional with the guys and Two: I’d just done it at WORK with my superior and subordinate TOGETHER! People are right when they say I’m like a real life Ben Stiller movie.
I left that night, and when the kids asked me as usal to pick up dinner I surprised them by agreeing. Usually they ask for an icee or something, and I say no. Then they ask to pick up dinner, and I say no because we have food at home to eat. We have the same conversation nearly every night on the way home in the car, and it usually ends with them being irritated at me and me being irritated with myself. Tonight though I asked if they would like Wendy’s and they kind of looked at me and said, “Um. YEAH!!” And I even stopped at the store to buy some drinks. When my daughter asked if I could please buy REAL Sprite instead of some generic lemon lime soda, I surprised her again and said OK this time because I had $500 still burning a hole in my pocket. (I bought FOUR bottles because they were on sale for $1 each if you purchased 4 + I got $1 back onto my rewards card. WOOHOO! This is how the fancy people live!)
That night I sat down to write. What could I post on facebook to let someone know that I’d received the gift but not say something stupid? I needed to be funny though, right? The only hint I’d gotten was that it was a facebook friend and “Thanks for the facebook LAUGHS.” I wanted whoever sent it to know that it hadn’t gotten lost in the mail because that would really suck for them, and things get lost in the mail all the time! I know this is true because surely DOZENS of invitations have gotten lost for me this year alone. It’s not like I have gotten invited to the ball… my invitations just never made it to me, right? I didn’t want to say anything stupid though that made me sound self-righteous. All I felt comfortable saying was that I’d received a card and was thankful for my facebook friends. When I was able to, I’d write about it and in the mean time I’d be looking for a way to pay it forward.
So this is it. That sweet card WAS both a thank you card and invitation rolled into one. And maybe if I just speak like I always do, then I can bumble through without intentionally putting my foot in my mouth. No worries about making my blog look professional or reorganizing all of my thoughts into something that wows anyone. And so this is me three days later saying thank you to someone whose generosity hit me at just the right time but that I can’t thank personally. Maybe they know a lot about me, but maybe they don’t. What no one could have known though was that the previous evening the kids had gotten mad at me because I told them I couldn’t give them the requested $7 each for shipping for their Operation Christmas Child boxes that they’d lovingly filled for children somewhere across the world. I just didn’t have it. I had less than $40 left in the account to last us a week and that’s better than some weeks. They wouldn’t have the chance though to receive a nice thank you note from a child in an impoverished country telling them how awesome their little crayons, soap and toothbrush were, and worse they were going to be SO EMBARRASSED to be the only ones who sent their boxes without paying for shipping. I managed to convince them that although it would be neat to track their boxes and pay for the shipping, perhaps this would be better anyway! We could use our IMAGINATIONS and think of all sorts of scenarios that someone wouldn’t be able to convey if they didn’t speak the same language. Giving isn’t about being recognized I told them not knowing that 12hrs later I’d be on the flip side of that assumption. I also know that I didn’t tell anyone what I had been thinking the prior week when I’d gone to a funeral for someone I knew who had just died fairly suddenly and left behind a new baby, stepkids and the husband she’d always dreamed about. I went to the funeral to honor her but also because I was looking for something to make me feel better because it’s scary to realize that EVERYTHING could change in the blink of an eye for my kids. She had told her husband when they met that she was “kind of a big deal” and those words were said again when her friends eulogized her. Promises were made to make sure that her precious baby girl would know how great she really was, and I saw pics on facebook of an 8 month old princess wearing an itty bitty t-shirt that said, “My mom is kind of a big deal.” I think we all want our kids to think we are a big deal and not just once we’re gone. I don’t want my kids to remember all the times that I’ve lost my cool but if they do JESUS let them also remember me bouncing back the best I knew how. I want them to laugh at me all over again and pick themselves up when they need to if I’m not around.
The card and money helped me to believe a little more in the things I tell my kids but don’t always buy into whole-heartedly. We don’t always need to be thanked for the gifts that we give, and we don’t always know when we’ve impacted someone even if it’s something as simple as laughing at ourselves and the hilarity of every day life through pics and quips on facebook. As far as being a big deal, every now and then my kids ask me about the book I planned to write. I started blogging a couple of years ago and even set up my own little site through wordpress. I had big plans and was writing daily until I just could find the time amidst being a full time single working mom. I post frequently instead on facebook because it’s easy and quick and usually there’s someone else out there that sees the hilarity of our little three ringed circus here. I remember telling the kids that if I ever made any money off of my writing that I’d buy them a new laptop that didn’t have hot pink argyle duct tape holding it together. Well… I think I just sort of DID make money through my writing. Maybe that will make me a “big deal” to the kids in their minds if and when I decide to tell them about the mysterious card. I haven’t bought the laptop yet, but someday I will. This year they’ll get bikes for Christmas, and I’ll save a little bit as well. Someone just gifted me with an extra week’s pay, and I’m going to work hard at paying it forward. We’ll keep our end quiet though and private and maybe even hide out to see someone’s reaction to whatever random act of kindness we’re able to do. It’s fun to get a reaction, and I hope my “fan” gets to read this and know mine.
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