The Tree of Joy

 In Weekly Forum Discussion, Writer in Residence

I was raised with the spirit of giving; I enjoy giving my time and money if I am able. Every Christmas I help with the “Tree of Sharing.” The tree is decorated with colorful tags, each one lists a gift which a child in foster care would like for Christmas. Tags on the tree range from ages five to 18. The tags for the younger children get filled very quickly, whereas I like to take tags for the older children.

When I look at the tags each year I am amazed at what the children ask for…pants, hair accessories, a nice dress shirt, a bike for transportation. Stuff I may take for granted or things I may not view as a gift. These children ask for what they need. My gift is not much, but if I can bring them a little joy it melts my heart.

I am not sure why I am drawn to poverty. I enjoy donating to the food bank or donating to Cross Walk which provides meals and shelters for homeless youth. I can’t give what I would like too, but I believe every little bit helps. I want the children to know people do care and they are not forgotten.

My joy of helping others runs in my family tree. My great-grandmother was a patron of a children’s hospital. My grandfather gave to the homeless every winter. When my children were young we helped out at the local food bank, and they looked forward to picking out our tag from the “Sharing Tree.” I miss them this time of year.

My son and his wife are foster parents. I am a foster-grandma. I love it. It is so easy to love and care for a child. It is difficult to see them go, but our job was to help them, shelter them, feed them, and love them through a plot twist in their book of life. My son and his wife give all year round. I am so proud of them.

This year the new me wanted to give in a different way. I decided I would spread cheer. I would try to send love and happiness out into the world by saying hello, looking people in the eye, and truly asking them how they are doing and listening to their responses. I was reaching beyond my comfort zone.

I have met some amazing people in the last five weeks. I became more connected with people in my everyday life, individuals I should have known better than I did. Now, when I go in the bank the teller has a big smile on her face and calls me by my name. Her smile brightens my whole day.

My hair stylist gives me a big hug. I didn’t know his family was having such a difficult year. I am glad I was there to listen. Our lives can have overwhelming moments or years. By this time next year I know his family will be in a better place.

By doing this I discovered two people that were in a winter depression. I am checking in with them twice a week – I want to remind them how important they are to me and to the world.

Spreading cheer has filled me with joy. I feel more at peace this holiday season. I feel love and kindness. I began my journey wanting my tree of joy to spread light out into the world. I found light flowing right back at me. This has been a true gift.

Written by: Collette Cottingham; Guardian Angels

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