Friday, August 28, 2015

Because Christmas

Have you ever noticed orientation is always synonymous with being put on the spot? It matters not why you are there to be orientated. Invariably questions will be asked and a spotlight will be shined right in your eye. As you flinch away from the light an awkward pause will stretch into eternity and you'll pray someone, anyone, will speak up first and it won't have to be you.

Yesterday I had to tell a group of strangers why I had decided to volunteer at a women's rehabilitation center. And as per my life, everyone there had a damn good compelling reason to be volunteering. They were heart-wrenching, made us tear up and some that left us clapping. My reason for volunteering seemed small and rather shallow in comparison

I listened as one guy talked about what a difference the men's rehabilitation center had made in his life. Fresh out of prison, only a few months sober and facing the cold hard fact that society was intent on putting him right back where he came from. He had faced astronomical odds but there he was sober, happy and a contributing member of society. All thanks to a men's rehabilitation center. 

Another was an ex-addict who thought other women would be able to easily bond with her as she had traveled on the same road they were now forced to walk. She was excited by the idea of being able to share the resources she had found on her long trek to break her addiction. An oral tradition so to speak. A helping hand that understood the process. 

Annnndddd then there was me. 

Blonde, well fed. Ignorant to even where the prison is in Oregon let alone what it was like to be incarcerated. My only serious addiction, Nerds candy and one bout of rainbowed hued diarrhea took care of that little problem. I didn't have a heart wrenching compelling reason to volunteer. There was no story written with blood.  

Nope, all I had was the story of a doll. 

Once upon a time in a land not too far away but definitely hotter. My son decided he was going to buy me a really super duper gift for Christmas. He thought and he thunked until steam came out of his ears and after great pondering he decided the answer to his question, was a doll. But it wouldn't just be any ol doll, oh no no noooo. This doll would be the envy of all on his block. Other moms would see this doll and fall down in anguish that there was no such doll in their lives.  

With much excitement, he dragged Bill and his wallet to the nicest doll store in Phoenix Arizona. This store had it all, from ancient relics to limited edition porcelain dolls. He wandered around, overwhelmed by all the choices, but one doll finally stepped up and said, "pick me!" She was a 24-inch beauty of a doll and let me tell you, she was a beaut! Blonde hair, blue eyes, gorgeous dress that matched her periwinkle eyes. A straw hat jauntily placed on her head with the cutest matching basket. To this day, I don't know why he picked her. Maybe he saw his never to be sister in her eyes. Or maybe it was the one that spoke to a little boy's heart. All he knew was she was it! Picked, wrapped up professionally and then carefully put under our tree. It stood out like a 1970's Cadillac at a Prius convention. Just daring me to say something about gas prices.

When Christmas finally rolled around for my impatient 8-year-old son. He made it very clear he wanted one thing and one thing only. For me to finally open the gift he had given me. I had been grilled mercilessly about this gift for days. Did I have any idea what it was? If he let me pick it up did I think I could guess what was in it? Had I been shaking it while he wasn't around? Was it horrible having to wait to get this ohmygodbestgiftEVER?

When it was time for me to finally open his gift he was in a fit of excitement. Hopping up and down like a deranged elf. So over the top excited he was forced to do the peepee dance. "Hurry up dad!" He said as Bill pulled her out from under the tree. Bill gingerly handed me the big, very heavy box while Dylan plopped down by me in breathless anticipation. As I ripped off the paper, he carefully watched my face so that he could see every single second of joy I would receive from his gift. There was an anticipated pause that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

An 8-year-old boy so excited over a doll he almost peed his pants. And why? Because he thought he had finally found a gift to rival all gifts and his mom would for sure and forever, love it. He sat for days imagining my happiness. Getting excited over the fact, I couldn't help but feel loved when I finally saw the gorgeous doll he himself had picked out.

So I told them about my doll.

About how it's so much better to give than to receive. Just like my son on that long ago Christmas morning. I'll look for the smallest glimmer of a smile, the tiniest sigh of relief, a nod towards redemption. I'll watch their faces carefully to see if they will be able to experience joy again in their lives. 

And yeah I get it, I'm an adult and Dylan was a kid. I don't expect everything I do to be well received. This isn't Christmas morning and I'm not giving out dolls. But I hope the hand I put out can be grabbed onto by someone who needs it. I hope I can show them it matters not the mistake but what you do to rectify it that counts. There is not one person on this planet who hasn't been faced with a long rocky road to forgiveness. I'd like to be there to help, to be a hand up. It's not much, but it's all I got.

So as I sat there uncomfortably shifting my feet under the table. Elbow to elbow with convicted felons whose character had been shaped in a fire that I can't conceive of. I had one thing and one thing only. It was taught to me by the heart a little boy, "because Christmas that's why."