Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 went down on record as being the wettest tropical cyclone and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. A huge portion of this devastation took place in Houston Texas, where thousands of families were instantly displaced from their homes due to extreme flooding, losing everything they owned. One such family was the Bowden family. Timothy and Jazmin and their two young daughters Vanessa and Liliana had no idea what was coming their way as they prepared to weather the incoming storm.
The past few weeks have been somewhat of a shocker to me; a real hit from the blindside. Every year, the Family Care Network engages the community to provide a lovely holiday for the children, youth and families we serve – all of whom are victims of trauma and unfortunate life circumstances. This year, instead of asking folks to provide specific gifts for specific individuals, we asked people to contribute cash or gift cards so that we could empower our families to care for their own so they could experience the joy of giving themselves.
Gifts come in all shapes and sizes—from extravagant, to handmade, or sentimental and even humorous. While every gift given for the pure joy of its recipient is meaningful, “life changing” gifts are in a category all to themselves. These are the gifts that when given, change the mindset, the circumstances and even the futures of those being gifted. Every holiday season, Mike McCarthy partners with us to give such a gift to one of our families working towards successful self-sufficiency. And witnessing each family’s joy at receiving Mike’s gift leaves not one dry eye at FCNI, and reminds each of us that we live in a truly remarkable community.
This holiday season, I will be celebrating my 43rd Christmas. In this time, I have made many holiday memories--some good, some not so good, and some which are still very funny. After all these Christmases, I have one particular memory which sticks out in my mind, and it involved “Santa’s Workshop”. No, I didn’t grow up in the North Pole, but I did grown up in Texas. And every year at my elementary school before school ended for the winter break, the stage in our cafeteria would be transformed into “Santa’s Workshop.” When I say “transformed,” I mean folding tables were set up in rows and a variety of family-satisfying gifts were put out on the tables. Gifts such as coffee mugs displaying slogans like “World’s Best Dad”, ceramic figurines of all sorts, neck ties, aprons, and, yes, even ashtrays (remember, this was over 30 years ago) lined the tables for students to peruse and purchase for different family members as gifts for the holidays. Every year, as I stood on the wooden steps leading to “Santa’s Workshop,” my anxiety would rise in hopes that the children in front of me would not buy the last pet rock which I knew my dad wanted more than anything. As I retell this memory, I am somewhat surprised at how a humble school fundraiser contributed so greatly to the development of my character as an adult and father. “Santa’s Workshop” helped to form generosity within me. It was the first time in my life that I remember thinking about other people and what they would like or need as a gift. This kind of generosity is a character trait that I strive to instill in my own children to this day.
For a long time, our society has clung to the idea that we are somehow hardwired to be selfish. And while there’s no denying this fact, there is now compelling evidence to prove that the pull that we all feel from time to time to do something generous is a foundational part of our humanity. As it turns out, there is a science behind the power of giving--we are also wired to do good!