A few months ago, while we were visiting Pennsylvania, we got word that one of Griffin's classmates--Samantha "Sammy" Kuester, died from complications of H1N1. She was a sweet little girl and it was a devastating loss to the family.
Yesterday, this was the scene at their house.
I dreamt all night about what I could do to help. By 7:45, I was in the car with the little ones and we were at the school. I met with the principal and kind of became the liaison for the school and community with the family. I spent my day making and fielding phone calls, organizing groups, helping spread information, and just kind of making sure the right people got in touch with the right groups.
By this evening, multiple offers of housing have been made--some offering available homes or apartments, others offering to pay months worth of rent. Food has been purchased and delivered. Clothing donations are being sent from across the country (thanks to Facebook and great friends I have from high school). Money and gift cards are being freely given. And Christmas has been saved multiple times over. A group from Ogden is bringing down supplies next week. A family in Salt Lake wants to bring down homemade crocheted afghans to replace the ones the mother made for the children for Christmas. Furniture, electronics, etc. I can't tell you how many times I've cried today, astounded by the generosity of complete strangers.
At one point, I needed to go to Willard to pick up a gift for Ellie. With my cell phone ringing constantly and the need to write things down, my friend said she would drive so I could be free to continue organizing the relief efforts. She sacrificed 3.5 hours of her time. Others have sacrificed money. None have sacrificed their love and compassion for this family. She commented that she had never seen me so happy, that I was just aglow as I talked to every person and helped arrange things. It felt good.
Now this isn't a declaration that I'm leaving my job for something else. Unfortunately, I can't afford to do that. But as I've seen what total strangers are doing, it has become the greatest Christmas. With the economy as it is, Christmas was going to be scaled back anyway. In fact, I don't even think I will be getting anything more than our dollar gifts that we do for each other. Who cares? I feel great inside. I'm exhausted for a good cause. I have very little voice left. I gave it up today for everyone else who wanted to know what was happening and how they could help. It was worth it. I did my visiting teaching with texts and calls still coming in, but the sisters didn't mind. In fact, I left with more than I came.
As I took some time tonight to ponder the fact that I'm supposed to be teaching the Christmas lesson to the Laurels on Sunday and haven't prepared anything, it occurred to me that I've been learning and living the best Christmas present of all: love thy neighbor as thyself.