There’s a grandmother who doesn’t live that far from me. I don’t know her name. I don’t know how old she is. But I know that this grandmother is dying. I know that she is suffering. And I know that after she is gone, four little children will continue to suffer on her behalf.
This grandmother is raising four grandchildren – ages 2 to 12 – while simultaneously battling both bone and breast cancer. Even as she prepares for a second mastectomy in the months ahead, her prognosis is not good. This may very well be her last holiday season.
The good news, as if there can be much in a situation this grave, is that her little family is among those to benefit from our office’s holiday charity program. Why, you may ask, is that good news? Well, I just happen to work with not only some of the smartest and most dedicated people in the business, but many of them just happen to have hearts of gold, too. Several of them have been touched just as deeply as I have by the tragic plight of this family.
One colleague has asked what, if anything, we can do for grandma. I have repeatedly tried to pry something out of the social worker that we can do just for her, but all she wants is some new clothes and toys for the children. (Well, she’ll be getting that in abundance. Plus, there will be lots of groceries and cleaning supplies as well as gift cards for whatever we don’t get that she may need. We can’t heal her, but boy can we make sure she gets what she has asked for those kids.)
This colleague and her family have made helping this family and some of the other sad cases that we’re helping, how they will celebrate their Christmas. “My family doesn’t really need anything and we’re so blessed,” she said. “We just think it’s more important to help those who aren’t so lucky.” I nearly wept.
I’ll admit, I was worried about our program this year. Even at a big company with many employees who generally make a good living. I was afraid that because each of us is feeling the economy’s squeeze in a variety of ways, and because this effort was quick on the heels of a hugely successful United Way campaign, that people would just deem it too much. It would be more than they could do.
I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Nearly half of the gift tags for our floor’s tree were gone before they were even put up. Gifts are already piling up in a corner of my office. And a handful of my colleagues have simply handed me money. “Get whatever we need,” one said.
I even got an email this week from a contractor – someone who isn’t really a company employee, doesn’t even work in the office – asking if he could contribute to the program.
Some of the other floors are moving a little more slowly while others are going about as well as ours. I have complete faith that by the 18th, when the program wraps up, we’ll have what we’ve asked for. And probably more than that. How can I be so sure? I think another colleague said it best.“There’s an awful lot of need out there,” he said. “I think that just makes people want to give that much more.”
My colleagues already are proving him so right.