Two years ago I had the worst holiday season I've ever had. I had been laid off from a job I loved on December 8th, had no money, B of A had sucked up nearly $1,000 in overdraft fees, leaving me owing them my last paycheck, and I had no prospects
December 21, 2010

Two years ago I had the worst holiday season I've ever had. I had been laid off from a job I loved on December 8th, had no money, B of A had sucked up nearly $1,000 in overdraft fees, leaving me owing them my last paycheck, and I had no prospects for any income until after the first of the year. I was depressed, hurt, angry, and proud. Finally one night I broke down on my blog and poured it all out in a post not asking for help, but just venting on my perceived helplessness. In my state of (somewhat irrational) grief, I viewed the breakage of my last vintage Coke glass as a symbol of my downfall. Seriously.

The next day I received an email from a reader with a donation. The day after that, four vintage Coke glasses arrived on my doorstep from a long-time blog friend and reader.

My then-14 year old daughter decorated the living room while I was out trying to scrounge up some money and left me a note telling me to get over it and get some spirit, since it wasn't the money that mattered.

Those gestures really turned around my whole outlook. How could they not? The kindness of strangers and family alike pulled me out of my funk and pridefest into a realization that money mattered less than the relationships I was (and am) fortunate enough to have. So with that, I share this story with you.

Last week, Jenny "The Bloggess" offered $30 gift cards to people who needed them. From there, her effort snowballed into something bigger than all of us.

In the past few days that post has gotten over 500 comments and so many heart-breaking requests were from people who need a small hand-up to buy food for Christmas dinner or from people who are planning on telling their children that there is no Santa because otherwise they wouldn’t understand why he didn’t come. You can’t read the comments and not ache a little because so many of us have either been there or see how easy it would be to be in their position one day. But here’s the amazing thing…every time someone would leave a comment asking for help someone else would leave a comment asking to help. And that’s why as of Friday morning, every single person who asked for help here is matched up with at least one person who will be sending them a gift card. In fact, so many people offered to help that we were able to give out multiple gift cards to people who had a greater need. And when things seemed dicey and I was about to call for an end to comments a wonderful man emailed me and told me that he’s so enjoyed the community on this blog that he wanted to donate $1000, no questions asked.

That was only the beginning. From her Sunday update:

I still have another hundred emails to mail out before I can go to sleep but it looks like well over 800 gift cards will be sent out if everything goes through as planned.

People have contributed in (and have been helped in) America, Canada, England, Germany, Australia, Asia…and they continue to help. Every time we get down to our last donor someone else steps forward. I wish I could share all the emails from people who felt that this gave them the hope to get through the next year and the strength to keep looking for a job or a place to work because they now had faith that people cared. There were even some who admitted later that they were considering suicide until this gave them hope. Some of those people considering suicide? Were the donors.

This phenomenon will not be something that's repeated. It springs from people needing to give and others needing to receive. It is the spontaneity of the thing that makes it so special. Not a program, not a charity, just people reaching out to others.

As you will see from her post and the comments, it doesn't touch even the edge of the needs out there, but it at least gives people an opportunity to cross a bridge and help those who need help most. It is hope that encourages me most: hope even for a small gesture.

I hope your holidays are warm, bright, and offer a similar opportunity to reach or be reached.

Update: Here is her final update on the post. $39,000 $40,000 donated to 450 people. Wow.

Final tallies: Over 900 gift cards were sent out by 683 people who were so thrilled to help. 435 people who needed small Christmas miracles received small donations for medicine, food and presents under the tree for their children. No large corporations got involved. No one only offered to donate if they got something out of it themselves. With no sponsorships, no ulterior motives and with only a simple need to reach out and help a perfect stranger 683 everyday, normal people (Jewish, Christians, Atheists, Muslims and more) sent out over $39,000 worth of donations to make sure Christmas came.

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