I volunteered to work at a charity “toy store” tomorrow. It’s one of those places where people donate new, unwrapped toys, and families who can’t buy Christmas gifts for their kids can come and choose a few for them so they’ll have something under the tree on Christmas morning.
I volunteered to help out because I donate toys to these kinds of organizations every year, but I don’t know anything about what happens to the Barbies and Scrabble games and modeling clay craft sets after I drop them into the collection bins. Throughout my own financial disasters, I endured a variety of humiliations, but they all paled in comparison to the thought of disappointing my kids. I guess I thought that if I could help make things even a little bit easier for some other family, then my own hard times could be good for something more than making me obsessive-compulsive about checking my online bank balance and writing down every cent I spend.
So this morning I met with some of the other people who will be volunteering tomorrow. None of us have ever done this "toy store" thing before. We each received a team T-shirt and a list of instructions on how to take families through the process. It all sounded pretty straightforward, although even with the instructions, it’s hard to know what to expect until I get there.
Toward the end of the meeting, one of the other volunteers said a friend of hers works for the organization we’ll be helping. Her friend told her that during this distribution of toys, the parents tend to get particularly emotional, because they feel bad that they have to accept charity toys for their kids. “So bring tissues,” I said, finishing her thought for her. She nodded.
I’m a weeper myself, which means that if I see tears, I am powerless to stop my own. If somebody near me cries, I cry. If I see somebody on TV cry, I cry. Sad books, extra-sweet greeting cards, whatever. From Bambi’s mom to “Million Dollar Baby,” it’s truly a wonder that I haven’t died of dehydration. My grandma was notorious for being incapable of saying grace before dinner without weeping halfway through. It seems that I inherited her eye-faucet connection.
And I’ve been to enough Al-Anon meetings to know about the tissues. Sometimes people hurt in deep places, and sometimes, words only make it worse. There is simple, powerful comfort in having another person silently hand you a tissue when you can’t stop the tears from coming. And there is simple, powerful comfort in having one to give.
Luckily, I never leave the house without a supply handy.