By Stacey Cepeda
I can still see her face.
As she climbed out of her car, this mom in her early 20s carried a bag of wreaths to donate to Snoqualmie Valley families in need of seasonal cheer.
When she reached the door of the Meadowbrook Farm Interpretive Center and saw the endless boxes of cans and other food ready to be sorted, she broke out in tears.
“Ten years ago,” she said, “all I could think about was how my dad had just died unexpectedly. Our family was struggling. When I opened our front door, I saw a basket of food on our table, with a big red bow on top. I remember every detail of that basket, but mostly, I remember how I felt.”
She was a young teen when she experienced a community’s kindness. She was now a young woman giving back. She’d come full circle.
What a wonderful story to keep in mind this fall as we turn our hearts to Valley neighbors in need. It’s a reminder of the meaning of the season — of any season.
In the face of the onslaught of messages to buy more “stuff” that we really don’t need, we all can summon examples that inspire our better selves. Here’s one of mine:
In a grocery line, I waited to purchase gift cards to distribute for the Encompass Respectful Giving campaign. A middle-aged man stood next to me, saw what I was buying and said, “You must be busy this time of year.” I nodded yes.
He pulled out his wallet. All he had was a $10 bill, and he gave it to me.
“Here,” he said. “Help somebody.” I then learned that he had received a Respectful Giving food basket a few years back.
Often, the best stories come from what we teach and see in our own children. I’m the mother of 9-year-old triplets, and my husband and I often tell them that it’s good to give, that there is good in everyone and that we look for goodness in their hearts, not their status. But talk becomes reality only when put into action.
Our boys have an allowance, split into thirds to spend, save and share. With their sharing money, we encourage them to find their own passions, whether it’s buying grocery items to donate or sending money to a TV campaign to save polar bears. It’s their choice. It’s fun and exciting to see the result.
We parents can take different but equally effective approaches toward the same goal. Maybe it’s at birthday parties, where the routine can be to bring a gift to be donated. Maybe it’s baking cookies, keeping a few to eat and contributing the rest.
It’s all about forging a lifelong habit of giving. It’s learning that generosity and gratitude go hand in hand. It’s a lesson that wasn’t forgotten by the young woman with the tears.
• Stacey Cepeda, Encompass Community Activities manager, directs the organization’s annual Respectful Giving campaign.